The retailer’s Supercenter in El Paso was the site of one of the nation’s worst mass shootings last month.
BOYNTON BEACH - Wesley Gaynor doesn’t know if Walmart’s decision to reduce sales of ammunition will have an impact on safety, but the 70-year-old Boynton Beach man is all for it.
Walmart, the nation’s largest retailer, announced Tuesday it will stop selling handgun ammunition as well as ammunition that can be used in assault-style weapons following mass-shooting incidents in Texas and Ohio. One of those incidents was at a Walmart Supercenter in El Paso.
Gaynor, shopping Wednesday morning at the Walmart on Old Boynton Road off Congress Avenue, said he "supports" Walmart.
"It’s a start and, I think, it sends a message," Gaynor said. "Average citizens are tired. We need to make some drastic changes on gun policy in this country."
On Aug. 3, the Walmart in El Paso was the site of one of the worst mass shootings in U.S. history with 22 people killed and dozens more injured. Days before the El Paso mass shooting, two Walmart employees were shot to death at a store in Southhaven, Miss., near Memphis.
Walmart CEO Doug McMillon said in a memo to employees that "the status quo is unacceptable."
Walmart also announced Tuesday that it will end handgun sales in Alaska, the only state where the retailer still sells them, and said it will ask that customers no longer openly carry guns into its stores in states that allow it. Florida does not allow open carry.
Jim Tooker, chairman of the Friends of the NRA in Palm Beach County, called Walmart’s announcements a "stunt."
"They’re caving in to liberals with a stupid idea that means nothing to safety," Tooker said Wednesday. "It’s a political move. I don’t know how many people buy ammunition at Walmart to begin with."
The number is not small.
According to industry figures, Walmart owns about a 20 percent slice of the ammunition market in the U.S., which translates to about $400 million in sales.
With its decision to halt the sale of most ammunition, including .223 caliber and 5.56 caliber bullets that can be used in assault-style rifles, the company’s chunk of national ammo sales will fall to about 6 percent, according to Walmart officials.
Tooker pointed out that Sam Walton, the founder of Walmart, was an avid hunter whose flagship store in Bentonville, Arkansas, sold guns.
"I don’t think he would appreciate this," Tooker said.
The National Rifle Association released a statement Tuesday calling Walmart’s decision "shameful" and adding the company had succumbed "to the pressure of the anti-gun elites."
"Lines at Walmart will soon be replaced by lines at other retailers who are more supportive of America’s fundamental freedoms," the statement reads.
Walmart isn’t alone among national-brand companies that have adjusted their firearm policies.
Dick’s Sporting Goods stopped selling assault-style weapons after 17 students and staffers were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Valentine’s Day 2018. The company announced in March it was no longer selling firearms at 125 of its 700-plus stores.
Kroger, the second-largest grocer in the U.S., said Wednesday it was following Walmart’s move by asking customers not to carry weapons openly in their stores. Kroger decided last year to stop selling guns and ammunition to customers.
Aaron Weinstein, shopping at Walmart in Boynton Beach on Wednesday, said the decision by Walmart to stop selling ammunition "doesn’t make me feel any safer."
Weinstein said Walmart is being hypocritical because it will continue to sell long-barrel rifles and shotguns as well as other guns and ammunition.
"I think it’s more for looks," Weinstein said. "Those people doing those mass shootings are going to be able to access guns and ammunition, no matter what."
The decision to discontinue most ammunition sales has already had an affect on one Palm Beach County gun owner and Walmart shopper.
Mike Ramos, a Wellington resident and a certified firearms instructor, said he went to his local Walmart on Tuesday “to get ammo in case of looters” following Hurricane Dorian. He was shut out.
"It punishes law-abiding citizens (looking) to protect themselves and their families," said Ramos, who owns Royal Palm Beach-based JDM Tactical, which provides training for concealed-weapon permit applicants. “People - not the guns - are the problem.”
Finding ammunition shouldn’t be an issue for gun owners like Ramos. In Florida, there are fewer restrictions to obtaining ammo than firearms. For instance, there are no background checks for the purchase of ammunition.
And buying bullets is as easy as going on online, finding a seller and having the ammo shipped to your mailbox.
"It’s pretty obvious we need some type of gun control in this country and our lawmakers have failed to act," said Gaynor, shopping for groceries on Wednesday. "So it’s got to start in private industry and move its way up to government. Eventually, it’s going to come. How long? Who knows."