Walmart's announcement that it will no longer sell firearms and ammunition to those under 21, follows the Feb. 14 shooting massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, during which suspected gunman Nikolas Cruz killed 17 students and faculty members.
"In light of recent events, we’ve taken an opportunity to review our policy on firearm sales," Walmart said in a statement. "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."
Walmart's announcement comes the same day that Pittsburgh-based Dick's Sporting Goods Inc. made a similar move. It said it was ending sales of assault-style rifles, banning the sale of guns to people younger than 21, and ceasing the sale of high capacity magazines.
He added, "To think about the loss and the grief that those kids and those parents had, we said, 'We need to do something.' And we’re taking these guns out of all of our stores permanently."
Despite the moves by Dick's Sporting Goods and Walmart, most firearms are not sold at outdoor specialty retailers like Dick’s, according to a survey by Fernandina Beach, Florida-based Southwick Associates, a market research firm that specializes in the hunting, shooting, sportfishing, and outdoor recreation markets.
According Southwick’s research, 12 percent of modern sporting rifles, like the AR-15, are purchased from outdoor specialty retailers. Traditional rifles, or hunting rifles, are purchased from such stores 22.7 percent of the time, according to 2017 data. A majority of gun sales take place at mom and pop stores. A smaller number of sales happen at gun shows, according to Southwick's.
Below, Walmart's statement on its firearms policy in its entirety:
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.
In 2015, Walmart ended sales of modern sporting rifles, including the AR-15. We also do not sell handguns, except in Alaska where we feel we should continue to offer them to our customers. Additionally, we do not sell bump stocks, high-capacity magazines and similar accessories. We have a process to monitor our eCommerce marketplace and ensure our policies are applied.
We take seriously our obligation to be a responsible seller of firearms and go beyond Federal law by requiring customers to pass a background check before purchasing any firearm. The law would allow the sale of a firearm if no response to a background check request has been received within three business days, but our policy prohibits the sale until an approval is given.
We are also removing items from our website resembling assault-style rifles, including nonlethal airsoft guns and toys. Our heritage as a company has always been in serving sportsmen and hunters, and we will continue to do so in a responsible way.