Walgreens, Wegmans, and CVS said today they will prohibit customers from openly carrying guns in their stores, even in states that are among the 31 that currently allow the open carry of handguns and rifles by civilians.
The announcements bring the total number of major US retailers now banning open carry to five, following similar policy shifts by Walmart and Kroger yesterday. They come in the wake of several recent mass shootings in the US, including one at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas last month in which a 21-year-old gunman killed 22 people. On average, there has been more than one mass shooting per day this year, with some 53 people shot dead in mass shootings in August alone. More than 10,100 people have been killed by gun violence so far this year, about 2,500 of whom were under the age of 18.
“We support the efforts of individuals and groups working to prevent gun violence, and continually review our policies and procedures to ensure our stores remain a safe environment,” CVS, the nation’s largest pharmacy chain, said in a statement posted to its corporate website. “We join a growing chorus of businesses in requesting that our customers, other than authorized law enforcement personnel, do not bring firearms into our stores.”
Walgreens, the second-largest pharmacy chain in the US, issued a press release that read, “We are joining other retailers in asking our customers to no longer openly carry firearms into our stores other than authorized law enforcement officials.”
Rochester, NY-based supermarket chain Wegmans, which has locations throughout Upstate NY and New England, shared its new policy on Twitter, acknowledging that “the sight of someone with a gun can be alarming,” and that it doesn’t want anyone to feel uncomfortable while shopping there. “For this reason, we prefer that customers not openly carry firearms into our stores,” concluded the company’s tweet.
Some pushed back on what they saw as less-than-forceful language. And Walmart, for one, will still allow concealed carry. State laws “prohibit us from doing a complete ban,” a company spokesperson told CBS MoneyWatch. None of the companies will be strictly enforcing the policy, according to the Associated Press, citing a memo by Walmart CEO Doug McMillon that said the company doesn’t want to expose workers to potentially dangerous confrontations.
Walmart will display signs in its stores, advising customers of the new rule.
“I’m sure the guy who intends to rob the store doesn’t read signs,” former NYPD detective sergeant Joe Giacalone told Quartz.
Still, banning open carry “sends a very strong cultural signal that companies are siding with the safety of families,” anti-gun violence campaigner Shannon Watts told CNN Business.
Last year, Kroger Co., the second largest supermarket chain in America, stopped selling guns and ammunition at its Fred Meyer stores in the Pacific Northwest. Walmart this week also announced it would stop selling handguns in Alaska—the only state in which it was still carrying them—and all handgun ammunition once its current inventory is depleted.
The National Rifle Association came out strongly against Walmart’s decision yesterday, issuing a statement calling it “shameful to see Walmart succumb to the pressure of the anti-gun elites.”
“Lines at Walmart will soon be replaced by lines at other retailers who are more supportive of America’s fundamental freedoms,” the NRA insisted.
However, the gun lobby group’s prediction may not pan out. In February 2018, national chain Dick’s Sporting Goods stopped selling assault-style rifles and removed all guns from 20% of its stores a few weeks after a mass shooting in Parkland, Florida that left 17 people dead.
Last month, Dick’s reported a 3.2% increase in same store sales for the second quarter of 2019, its best result in three years. It raised its sales and earnings outlook for the year, the news bringing with it a 4% bump in the company’s stock price.