Walmart and City Market are asking customers not to openly carry firearms into stores nationwide, a request some residents on either side of the gun debate in Southwest Colorado said they find reasonable.
“I think that’s a sensible request,” said Jean Walter, a gun owner and former La Plata County Democratic Party chairwoman. Taking a visible firearm into a grocery store simply scares others, she said.
Chris Burnett, manager at Rocky Mountain Pawn and Gun, said openly displaying a weapon can be needlessly concerning to other shoppers.
“There is no need to scare the soccer mom with her two kids,” he said.
Gun owners who are interested in carrying their weapon for personal protection may apply for a concealed carry permit, he said. Concealed carry permit holders go through extensive background checks to ensure they will be responsible gun owners, he said.
“Those kind of people are extra squeaky clean,” he said.
Walmart, Walgreens and City Market’s parent company, Kroger, are the latest major retailers to announce they will ask shoppers not to openly carry firearms. Others include Starbucks, Target and Wendy’s.
The retailers’ announcement comes after a shooting last month at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, that killed 22 people.
The retailers’ request could be enforced by law enforcement if someone brought a weapon openly into a store and then refused to leave, said Ray Shupe, a Durango Police Department spokesman.
A business has the right to refuse service to anyone, and if the person openly carrying a weapon refused to leave the store, the police could issue the shopper a trespassing ticket, he said.
“It would be treated just like any other trespassing call,” he said.
However, the person could have the right to file a civil lawsuit against the shop because Colorado state law allows residents to openly carry weapons, he said.
City Market spokeswoman Kelli McGannon said she couldn’t provide many details about the store’s new policy on firearms.
She could not say if the chain might display signs announcing the policy or if the company had taken a stance on concealed carry weapons.
“We will continue to find best practices and work with retail partners,” she said.
Walmart has taken a step beyond not allowing residents to open carry, announcing this week that it will stop selling handgun ammunition as well as short-barrel rifle ammunition, such as the .223 caliber and 5.56 caliber used in military-style weapons, after it runs out of its current inventory. That in turn will reduce Walmart’s market share of ammunition from around 20% to a range of about 6% to 9%, according to a memo by the company CEO Doug McMillon. The company also called on Congress to consider an assault rifle ban.
Durango-area gun shop workers said they expect Walmart’s decision will drive up sales at locally owned stores.
Burnett with Rocky Mountain Gun and Pawn said he is pleased by Walmart’s announcement because even a piece of Walmart’s sales would be good for business.
“I was tickled to death; we have a hard enough time competing with the big chain stores,” he said.
But he had already heard from some gun owners who were upset with Walmart and expected the retailer would see some backlash from shoppers who are supporters of gun rights.
“It kind of turned them off a little bit,” he said.
As a libertarian, Burnett said he supported a retailer’s right to make changes that make sense to them. But he believes armed citizens improve public safety, particularly if they are able to intervene in a shooting before police can arrive.
“The only guy that takes out a bad guy with a gun, is a good guy with a gun,” he said.
Walter said she supports the step Walmart took.
“It puts Walmart on the record as saying we object to the proliferation of weapons that kill kids. ... It’s meaningful in so far as it shows where Walmart stands,” she said.
But she would like to see national lawmakers institute stronger background check requirements and a national extreme risk protection order law, also known as a “red flag” law. Red flag laws allow law enforcement or family members to report someone as a threat and seek a court order to have that person’s weapons seized.
email@example.comThe Associated Press contributed to this story.