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Walmart's Open Carry Ban Draws Support, Objections In Montana

A woman wearing jeans and a handgun hip holster
Paul Weaver
Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
Danville, Pa. (January 19, 2013) -- Rose Mabus showed up at the Gun Appreciation rally in Danville, Pa. with a handgun on her hip.

Montana is one of 31 states that allow people to openly carry firearms without permits in certain public places. Until recently, that included stores owned by Walmart, the nation’s biggest retailer.

Walmart’s Chief Executive Doug McMillon announced last week the corporation would actively discourage open carry in its stores and stop selling ammunition that could be used in military style firearms.

Walmart’s gun policy overhaul has been met with praise and criticism. In a tweet, the National Rifle Association called it “shameful” and said shoppers would go to “other retailers who are more supportive of America’s fundamental freedoms."

But in Bozeman, where the Walmart Superstore parking lot is still full on a Thursday night, reactions are more mixed.

Kellen Gamradt is pushing a cart with groceries and two little boys back to his vehicle. He says he supports Walmart’s decision.

“I think it’s worth a try, anything we can do to cut back on the mass shootings in the country,” Gamradt says.

The announcement came just days after a mass shooting claimed seven lives in Odessa, Texas, and followed back-to-back shootings last month, two of which were at Walmart stores.

Gerwin Montero says he’s not sure if Walmart’s changes would have much of an effect. The spate of recent mass shootings, he says, makes it feel like it could happen anywhere at anytime.

“I'm not scared, but I worry about my son, my wife, they're just going to come and then some crazy guy’s going to come and start shooting, and even he wasn’t trying to shoot my wife or my kid, they could get a bullet,” Montero says.

Clint Rickert says he disagrees with Walmart and that being able to openly carry firearms makes places safer.

"I do work for a business that does allow it and I actually feel safer in that business because my fellow employees open carry and people that come in open carry. So it tells me that there's, there should not be a risk of me being robbed there,” Rickert says.

Rickert adds more education is needed to make sure people see guns as tools for self-defense and hunting rather than weapons to harm innocent people.

“And I believe that our Second Amendment is clear that the point of having handguns, assault rifles, anything of the sort, is to form a well-defended militia, which in case of a tyrannical government, we should be able to defend ourselves. That's not going to happen with limited capacity magazines or limiting the caliber of a rifle,” he says.

Rickert says he will continue shopping at Walmart unless it publicly comes out against the Second Amendment.

“I’m all for open carry in your self-defense and protection but there’s no reason for an assault rifle,” says Courtney Hester. She recently moved to Montana from West Virginia, another open carry state.

Hester says she supports Walmart’s decision to stop selling ammunition that can be used in military style firearms.

“I just feel like the whole assault rifle thing in general we should have better gun laws towards that," she says. "But I don’t see how they’re going to discourage or effectively ban the open carry, especially in the state of Montana."

In an e-mail, Walmart’s Senior Director of Communications Delia Garcia said stores will be posting new signage at a date yet to be determined.

If someone ignores the sign and continues to openly carry a firearm, Garcia said the store manager will use a “non-confrontational” approach. Law enforcement may be called in if the person poses a threat.

People who have permits to carry concealed firearms will not be affected by Walmart’s new policy.

Over the last week, Kroger, CVS, Walgreens and Albertsons have all said they would discourage open carry as well.

A tweet released by Albertsons Companies September 7th stated, "We see our grocery stores as a hub in local communities & we're proud to serve our neighbors. We want our stores to feel safe & welcoming for all, so we respectfully ask customers to not openly carry firearms in our stores unless they are authorized law enforcement officers."

Courtney Hester, who recently moved from West Virginia, says she thinks corporations can play a role in curbing gun violence, but she says the government needs to step up.

“I think there should be more background checks or more mental health checks for people, and I don’t know, I think more pressure needs to be put on it.”

U.S. Congress returned from its recess Monday. The House and Senate will be considering several pieces of legislation, including limiting the size of magazines and restricting potentially dangerous people from owning guns.