The prominent chain mega-retailer Walmart will no longer sell guns or ammunition to anyone under the age of 21, as it was announced on Wednesday. Walmart, which boasts more than 4,500 locations throughout the United States, is one of the biggest gun-sellers in the United States, making this a wide-ranging and potentially impactful decision.
The store will also stop selling toy or airsoft guns that are designed to look like assault rifle-style firearms. In a statement on Wednesday, the company detailed why it decided to make this move now, in the aftermath of the mass shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Walmart also assured its customers, however, that they would continue to cater to people who wanted to buy guns.
"In light of recent events, we’ve taken an opportunity to review our policy on firearm sales. Going forward, we are raising the age restriction for purchase of firearms and ammunition to 21 years of age. We will update our processes as quickly as possible to implement this change," the statement said.
"We are also removing items from our website resembling assault-style rifles, including nonlethal airsoft guns and toys," the statement continued. "Our heritage as a company has always been in serving sportsmen and hunters, and we will continue to do so in a responsible way."
Walmart's decision came the same day that Dick's Sporting Goods announced it would no longer sell assault rifle-style weapons. Dick's also announced that they would no longer sell expanded-capacity magazines to allow people to fire an increased amount of bullets per reload, and committed to not selling so-called "bump stocks" which allow semiautomatic rifles to approach a fully automatic rate of fire.
To be clear, Dick's Sporting Goods said in a statement that it had never sold bump stocks to begin with, but the company has now made it explicit that it will not do so in the future.
In short, in a matter of hours, two retailers have announced voluntary changes to their policies surrounding gun sales. It's no secret why politicians, public institutions and brands alike are now publicly focusing on guns; the Parkland shooting, which left 17 people dead (14 of them students), has cast a long shadow in the national consciousness. That's in large part thanks to many of the survivors of the shooting, high school students who've been vocally participating in activism since the attack on Stoneman Douglas.
In the weeks following the shooting, the high-profile advocacy by some of the school's students has kept matters of gun violence and gun reform squarely in the national conversation. They've proven to be such effective advocates so far that some pro-gun conservatives have begun criticizing and scrutinizing their pro-gun control arguments.
In short, the political dialogue of the moment has forced some companies to reassess how they handle selling guns or ammunition, or ever what organizations they associated with. For example, earlier this week Delta Air Lines and Hertz both halted promotions they previously offered to members of the National Rifle Association (NRA).
The changes undertaken by Walmart on Wednesday should have a much farther-reaching effect than simply pulling discounts for NRA members, however. This is an example of a major gun seller ― in fact, reportedly the biggest one in the entire country ― voluntarily changing its policies to make it tougher to buy a gun, in this case for people in their late teens.
It remains to be seen whether any other major gun sellers take notice, or follow Walmart's suit, or begin feeling similar pressures. But these issues being in the spotlight is clearly resulting in companies making some major changes.