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Walmart Takes Down Guns And Ammo Displays Ahead Of Election, Citing 'Unrest'

Retailers have already had a challenging 2020 in the U.S., between the COVID-19 pandemic and the changes it has required, and a summer of widespread protests over police brutality and racial injustice.

Now, retail giant Walmart expects even more challenges in the near future and recognizing that tensions across the nation are high, it has made the decision to take down displays of guns and ammunition in its stores ahead of Election Day.

UPDATE: Walmart reversed its decision to remove guns and ammunition from store displays after publication. "As the current incidents have remained geographically isolated, we have made the decision to begin returning these products to the sales floor today," a spokesperson told NBC News.

Although customers will still be able to purchase guns and ammunition at Walmart, they won't be able to simply grab it off a shelf.

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According to The Wall Street Journal, Walmart made the decision largely in response to rising tensions in Philadelphia following the police shooting of Walter Wallace Jr., which sparked two days of protests.

By taking guns and ammo off store shelves, Walmart hoped to "head off any potential theft of firearms if stores are broken into amid social unrest."

Although the events in Philadelphia led to the decision, Walmart has also removed the displays from all of its stores that sell firearms.

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Only about half of Walmart's 4700 stores in the U.S. carry firearms or ammunition, primarily those with active communities of hunters, a spokesperson said in a statement, according to NPR.

"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," the spokesperson added.

Indeed, Walmart has made such moves in the past.

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Walmart has exercised increasing caution with the sale of firearms. As NPR reported, Walmart stopped selling handguns in the vast majority of its stores in the 1990s and now only sells them in Alaska. Walmart also stopped selling AR-15s and similar guns in 2015 following their high-profile use in mass shootings, and in 2018, Walmart raised the age to purchase a gun in its stores to 21.

Walmart also previously removed gun and ammo displays from its stores in the summer during the nationwide protests following the death of George Floyd, as CNN reported.

Walmart has not indicated when customers will see guns and ammunition on its store shelves again.

But 2020 has been a busy year for gun sales so far. Over a 12-day span following President Trump's March 13 proclamation of an emergency due to COVID-19, average daily sales of firearms jumped from 90,000 to 120,000, according to the Brookings Institution.

And according to the National Shooting Sport Foundation, a record 12.1 million Americans went through the FBI's background check system associated with firearm sales between January and July.

h/t: NPR