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Walmart has temporarily removed all firearms and ammunition displays in its stores because of the potential for social unrest, the company said on Thursday.
The move, first reported by the Wall Street Journal, was prompted by the possibility of people breaking into stores and stealing firearms if unrest breaks out in light of the U.S. election.
It also repeats a tactic deployed by Walmart in June after some stores were damaged in the wake of the killing of unarmed Black man George Floyd by Minneapolis police. This week saw looting in Philadelphia after a Black man holding a knife was shot to death by police.
“We have seen some isolated civil unrest, and as we have done on several occasions over the last few years, we have moved our firearms and ammunition off the sales floor as a precaution for the safety of our associates and customers,” a Walmart spokesman told Fortune.
The company has not said when the merchandise would return to shelves, but customers will still be able to buy these items on request.
Walmart sells guns and ammunition at roughly half of its 4,700 stores to cater to the hunters that have been part of its bread-and-butter clientele since its founding in 1962. But last year, after a shooting at one of its stores in El Paso, Texas, in which 23 people died, Walmart stopped selling ammunition that can be used in semiautomatic rifles and handguns.
Following months of demonstrations across the country that sometimes grew violent, there are growing concerns about the potential for armed conflict as the country heads into next week’s election.
President Trump on Twitter has sought to recruit 50,000-plus volunteer observers to “monitor” voting in certain swing states, something that has caused concern among local police and election officials in parts of the country. Earlier, a Michigan judge struck down a ban on open carry on Election Day at the state’s polls, a decision the state might take to the Michigan Supreme Court.
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