Walmart in El Paso

Texas state police cars block access to the Walmart store after the mass shooting in El Paso. — AP Photo/Andres Leighton, File

“The status quo is unacceptable,” says Walmart’s CEO Doug McMillon about the giant retailer’s decision to stop selling handgun and short-barrel rifle ammunition, while requesting that customers not openly carry firearms in its stores, even where state laws allow it.

This is a significant step in the right direction toward tighter gun control.

Walmart’s announcement comes just days after a mass shooting claimed seven lives in Odessa, Texas, and follows back-to-back shootings last month, including one by a gunman who entered a Walmart store in El Paso, Texas, and killed 22 people using an AK-style rifle.

Walmart said Tuesday it will discontinue sales of certain gun ammunition used in military-style weapons after it runs out of its current inventory. The latest move allows it to focus on hunting rifles and related ammunition only.

“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,” according to a memo by McMillon circulated to employees Tuesday afternoon. “The status quo is unacceptable.”

The National Rifle Association posted a tweet unfairly attacking Walmart’s announcement.

“It is 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,” it said.

Whether Walmart’s decision will translate into fewer guns on the street remains an open question since most firearms sales are done through gun shops or gun shows.

Still, Walmart’s move should have an impact. About half of the retailer’s more than 4,750 U.S. stores sell firearms, or around 2% of all U.S. firearms.

Walmart’s move is more evidence that companies are beginning to respond to public pressure to restrict gun and ammunition sales.

In March, Dick’s Sporting Goods announced it would stop selling firearms and ammunition at 125 of its 700-plus locations. Last year, Kroger announced it would stop selling firearms and ammunition at its Fred Meyer stores in the Pacific Northwest. On Tuesday, Kroger joined Walmart in asking customers not to openly carry their guns when they visit its stores.

Walmart is the nation’s largest retail chain. Because of its clout and size, its decision sends a strong message to Congress.

As Congress comes back to consider measures on gun violence, it should follow the example set by Walmart and other retailers and enact measures aimed at background checks and tighter restrictions on gun sales, particularly on military-style weapons and ammunition.

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