(CNN) — Walmart CEO Doug McMillon said Thursday the company supports strengthening some gun measures in the United States after more than 20 people were killed in an attack on a Walmart in El Paso, Texas.
“We’re encouraged that broad support is emerging to strengthen background checks and to remove weapons from those who have been determined to pose an imminent danger,” McMillon said in a statement Thursday. “We believe the reauthorization of the Assault Weapons ban should be debated to determine its effectiveness in keeping weapons made for war out of the hands of mass murderers.”
Walmart is America’s largest retailer, and McMillon said Walmart represents about 2% of the market for guns today. Walmart believes it puts it outside at least the top three gun sellers in the industry. Walmart estimates it has about a 20% share of ammunition.
McMillon’s comments on guns could give Congress fresh incentive to act on the deeply divisive issue.
On August 4, a Walmart in El Paso was the scene of one of the worst mass shootings in American history. Federal investigators are treating the shooting as an act of domestic terrorism.
In the wake of the shooting, Walmart has faced enormous pressure to remove firearms from its physical stores and criticized for selling pro-gun T-shirts on its website. Several Democratic candidates for president have called on Walmart to stop selling guns at its stores. America’s largest teachers’ union, The American Federation of Teachers, and gun safety groups have pressed the retailer to end its gun sales.
Despite its history of selling hunting weapons that goes back to Walmart’s origins, Walmart has shifted its gun policies. It stopped selling assault rifles in 2015 and raised its minimum gun purchasing age to 21 last year after the Parkland, Florida, shooting. Walmart also stopped selling handguns in every state but Alaska in the mid-1990s and only sells a firearm after receiving a “green light” on a background check.
“We’ve attempted to take common sense steps that allow us to serve customers and create a safer environment,” McMillon said in prepared remarks Thursday.
Walmart is a key retail partner for publicly traded gun companies American Outdoor Brands and Vista Outdoor, according to the companies’ public filings and presentations.
Walmart is Vista Outdoor’s largest customer, making up 14% of Vista’s $2 billion in sales in 2019.