Walmart will stop selling firearms and ammunition to people under the age of 21, the company said Wednesday. The nation’s largest retailer made the announcement the same day Dick’s Sporting Goods announced it would end the sale of assault-style rifles and high-capacity magazines in its stores. Dick’s is instituting the same age limit on gun sales.
Walmart said in a statement that it had reviewed its policy “in light of recent events,“ a clear reference to the deadly school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that left 17 dead and has reignited the gun debate across the country.
In addition to raising the minimum age to purchase a firearm to 21, the retailer will remove items from its websites “resembling assault-style rifles, including nonlethal airsoft guns and toys.”
“Our heritage as a company has always been in serving sportsmen and hunters,” the company said in a statement, “and we will continue to do so in a responsible way.”
Walmart’s announcement, especially coming on the heels of Dick’s, is as much a symbolic move as a practical one. Walmart already stopped selling AR-15s and other semiautomatic weapons in its US stores in 2015. The retailer also doesn’t sell high-capacity magazines or bump stocks, devices that effectively turn semiautomatic weapons into automatic ones.
Building on our 2015 decision to not sell modern sporting rifles, we announced important changes today:— Walmart (@Walmart) February 28, 2018
- Raising the age for purchase of firearms and ammunition from 18 to 21 years old
- Removing online items resembling assault-style rifles
See details https://t.co/K7wnc0XEwK
Walmart said at the time that its decision to stop selling AR-15s was a business one, based on customer demand. But now its change in policies appears closely tied to current events. That’s particularly significant coming from one of America’s most visible and well-known retailers.
Multiple companies have also cut ties with the National Rifle Association in the wake of the Parkland shooting, including Delta and Hertz. Investment firms are also starting to reexamine their portfolios and dropping increasingly toxic gun stocks.
Whether and how this corporate and business backlash may influence the gun debate raging in states and on the national stage is still an open question. As Vox’s Emily Stewart pointed out, Dick’s backtracked on a similar decision in 2012:
Following the 2012 shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, that left 20 children and six adults dead, Dick’s suspended the sale of certain kinds of semiautomatic rifles. But the suspension wasn’t permanent and such rifles were later sold at the company’s Field & Stream stores. Asked on Good Morning America Wednesday whether the company would reverse its position again, Stack said, “Never.”
Read more about Dick’s decision to stop selling assault-style rifles here.