Walmart releases gun sales data; CEO calls for debate on assault weapons ban

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Walmart releases gun sales data; CEO calls for debate on assault weapons ban

By Marianne Wilson - 08/15/2019
The CEO of Walmart has waded gingerly into the nation’s gun debate.

In a statement released with the retail giant’s second-quarter earnings, Walmart CEO Doug McMillon said that the company is “encouraged that broad support is emerging to strengthen background checks and to remove weapons from those who have been determined to pose an imminent danger.”

“We do not sell military-style rifles, and we believe the reauthorization of the assault weapons ban should be debated to determine its effectiveness in keeping weapons made for war out of the hands of mass murderers,” McMillon continued. (Commonly called the assault weapons ban, the Public Safety and Recreational Firearms Use Protection Act was adopted in 1994 and expired a decade later.)

In the statement, Walmart also revealed for the first time some data regarding its gun sales. McMillon estimated that the chain represents about 2% of the current market for firearms, which puts it outside at least the top three sellers in the industry. The retailer has about a 20% share of the ammunition market, McMillon said.

"The percentages reflect sales and were determined based on a wide range of industry data,” Walmart spokesperson Randy Hargrove told CBS MoneyWatch. “We have not broken out the information further to disclose sales figures.”

Walmart has come under increasing pressure to change its gun policy after recent deadly shootings at its stores in Southaven, Mississippi and El Paso, Texas. Most recently, an armed man wearing body armor set off a panic when he walked into a Walmart in Springfield, Missouri.

In his statement, McMillon detailed the steps the chain has taken to promote gun safety:

• We stopped selling handguns in every state but Alaska in the mid- 90s.

• We stopped selling military-style rifles such as the AR-15 in 2015.

• We raised the age limit to purchase a firearm or ammunition to 21 in 2018.

• Walmart only sells a firearm after receiving a “green light” on a background check, while federal law only requires the absence of a “red light” after three business days. We don’t sell a firearm until we receive a “green light” regardless of the time period.

• We videotape the point of sale for firearms, only allow certain associates to sell firearms, and secure firearms in a locking case with individual locks, among other measures.

“We’ve attempted to take common sense steps that allow us to serve customers and create a safer environment,” McMillon said.

On a call with reporters, Walmart US CEO Greg Foran said that the company is working with local authorities to determine additional security measures across its U.S. stores.