- Walmart is facing calls to stop selling guns in the wake of deadly shootings at its stores.
- I went to a Walmart store in Virginia with the intention of buying a gun as part of an investigation into the placement, selection, marketing, security, and sales of firearms in Walmart’s stores.
- My journey to bring a gun home from Walmart was more complicated than I expected, and I was left with the impression that the company takes gun security and sales seriously.
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More than 128,000 people have signed a petition urging Walmart to stop selling guns and take a stronger stance against firearms since the shootings at stores in El Paso, Texas, and Southaven, Mississippi. But the company has said it has no plans to stop selling them.
I went to Walmart with the intention of buying a gun last week as part of an investigation into the placement, selection, marketing, and security of firearms in Walmart’s stores, and to learn more about the retailers’ processes for governing gun sales.
My journey to bring a gun home from Walmart turned out to be far more complicated than I expected.
I hit a road block before I even left the house.
Walmart has said about half of its 4,700 US stores sell guns.
I searched Walmart.com and Google last Tuesday to find out which of the 10 Walmart stores near me sell guns, and I failed to come up with any definitive answers.
The only guns advertised on Walmart’s website are air guns, which are non-lethal. After about 30 minutes, I gave up on searching the internet and turned to the phone.
I figured employees at any one of Walmart’s stores near me would know which locations sell guns.
I was wrong.
Over the course of an hour and a half, I placed more than a dozen calls to multiple stores, waited on hold for a combined 40 minutes, and only got through to a human being three times. Three Walmart employees told me they didn’t know which stores sold guns in the area.
One person referred me to Walmart’s main customer service line.
I called that number and spoke to someone who said he also couldn’t help me.
"When it comes to item availability, they don’t want us to discuss that because of various reasons," he said.
He declined to elaborate on this, and said he personally knew of at least one location near me that didn’t sell guns.
I crossed that store off my list.
The customer service representative advised me to call each store individually to find out if they sell guns. When I told him that I had spent more than an hour doing just that, and that several stores weren’t answering their phones, he said I could file a report with him concerning problems with specific locations. This was not helpful.
After hours of Googling and phone calls, I finally had a breakthrough and found a Walmart store that sells guns.
Someone answered the phone at a Walmart supercenter in Chesterfield, Virginia.
She transferred me to the sporting goods department, where a woman on the line confirmed that I could buy a gun there.
The store was 30 minutes away. I got in my car and plugged the address for the Chesterfield Walmart into my phone.
(When I later contacted Walmart’s media relations team concerning my difficulty locating a store that sells firearms, a spokesman pointed me to the website for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, which maintains a list of all gun retailers by state).
When I arrived, I looked for the sporting goods department. I found it about 100 steps from the closest entrance to the store.
On my way to the department, I walked past shelves of school supplies, the toy department, and the bike shop.
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