Walmart asks customers not to bring guns into stores, plans to end handgun ammunition sales

Walmart announced Tuesday it will discontinue the sale of handgun ammunition and is also “respectfully requesting” that customers no longer openly carry firearms in stores where state laws allow it.

The company said its decision follows two mass shootings last month, including one at a Walmart store in El Paso, as well as a shooting in Odessa, Texas.

The Bentonville, Arkansas-based retailer said it will stop selling short-barrel and handgun ammunition after it runs out of its current inventory. It will also discontinue handgun sales in Alaska, marking its complete exit from handguns and allowing it to focus on hunting rifles and related ammunition only.

Walmart is further requesting that customers refrain from openly carrying firearms at its stores unless they are law enforcement officers. Last month, a gunman entered a Walmart store in El Paso, Texas and killed 22 people using an AK-style firearm that Walmart already bans the sale of.

Texas became an open carry state in 2016, allowing people to openly carry firearms in public.

“We believe the opportunity for someone to misinterpret a situation, even in open carry states, could lead to tragic results,” according to a memo by Walmart's CEO Doug McMillon. “We hope that everyone will understand the circumstances that led to this new policy and will respect the concerns of their fellow shoppers and our associates.”

Walmart's moves will reduce its market share of ammunition from around 20% to a range of about 6% to 9%, according to Tuesday's memo. About half of its more than 4,000 U.S. stores sell firearms.

The nation's largest retailer has been facing increasing pressure to change its gun policies by gun control activists, employees and politicians after the El Paso shooting and a second unrelated shooting in Dayton, Ohio that killed nine people.

A few days before that, two Walmart workers were killed by another worker at a store in Southaven, Mississippi.

McMillon said he planned to send letters to the White House and the Congressional leadership that calls for action on these "common sense" measures.

"As we’ve seen before, these horrific events occur and then the spotlight fades," McMillon wrote in the memo. "We should not allow that to happen. Congress and the administration should act."

In the aftermath of the El Paso shooting, Walmart ordered workers to remove video game signs and displays that depict violence from stores nationwide. But that fell well short of demands for the retailer to stop selling firearms entirely. Critics have also wanted Walmart to stop supporting politicians backed by the National Rifle Association.

The retailer has long found itself in an awkward spot with its customers and gun enthusiasts. Many of its stores are located in rural areas where hunters are depend on Walmart to get their equipment.

Walmart is trying to walk a fine line by trying to embrace its hunting heritage while being a more responsible retailer.

"In a complex situation lacking a simple solution, we are trying to take constructive steps to reduce the risk that events like these will happen again," McMillon wrote. "The status quo is unacceptable."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.