Walmart ammunition cutbacks will have little effect, gun enthusiasts say

Bob Viden, owner of Bob's Little Sport Shop in Glassboro, says his shop will continue selling the ammunition that Walmart has decided to drop from its inventory. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Bob Viden, owner of Bob's Little Sport Shop in Glassboro, says his shop will continue selling the ammunition that Walmart has decided to drop from its inventory. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Bob Viden, Jr. plunked down two cartridges on the counter: one a .223 that can be used in the type of AR-style rifles used in several recent mass shootings, and the other, a .30-06 for use in even more powerful rifles.

The longtime owner of Bob’s Little Sport Shop in Glassboro, New Jersey, was making a point about Walmart’s announcement this week that it will stop selling ammunition for handguns and military-style weapons. Walmart said that includes ammunition like the .223, but the retailer did not mention the .30-06.

His son, Bob Viden III, who also works in the shop, spelled it out.

Bob Viden compares the bullets used in the AR 15 (left) and the Remmington hunting rifle. The latter, he says, is more powerful and accurate, while the former is considered too weak to be used for deer hunting. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

“AR-type guns, that’s what’s in the news right now. All these guys that are going out and doing all these mass shootings, that’s what they’re gravitating to, so that’s what the public sees and that’s where the pressure is on everybody to ban them,” he said Wednesday. “When in reality, if they had some of these other hunting rifles, they could be actually more dangerous.”

“So what are we doing?” his dad said of Walmart’s new policies. “What are we accomplishing?”

The Videns were among several gun enthusiasts critical of Walmart’s decision, which came after two deadly shootings at the retailer’s stores in the last two months. They said the restrictions will inconvenience hunters and hobbyists, while doing little to reduce gun violence.

Although Walmarts in New Jersey do not sell guns or ammunition, the retail giant is a popular destination for gun owners in other states. The company says it currently sells about 20% of ammunition nationwide.

A woman who provided only her first name, Mary Ellen, was buying boxes of .22-caliber ammunition at a Walmart in Levittown, Pa. on Wednesday. She predicted Walmart’s announcement would cause a run on ammunition in the next few weeks, making it harder for families who enjoy hunting or target shooting.

Customers line up at the counter at Bob’s Little Sport Shop in Glassboro, staffed by owner Bob Viden’s sons, Bob (left) and Wayne. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

“So now you can’t enjoy your weekend because you can’t use your bullets because you know you’re not going to have any,” she said. “You can’t just go buy it. It won’t be found anywhere.”

Other customers at the Levittown Walmart said they would start buying more ammunition online, where it is often cheaper, or go to other retail outlets in the area.

Walmart’s announcement followed measures to tighten gun policies by other big retailers in recent years, such as Dick’s Sporting Goods, which raised the gun- and ammunition-buying age to 21 and stopped selling certain types of rifles last year.

Walmart, which has previously taken similar steps, said the most recent changes are in response to the shooting at a store in El Paso last month that left 22 people dead, and a separate shooting a few days earlier at a store in Mississippi that claimed the lives of two employees.

Customers leave a Walmart in Blackwood, N.J. Walmarts nationwide will no longer sell 223 ammunition, used in AR 15 rifles. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

“As a company, we experienced two horrific events in one week, and we will never be the same,” Walmart CEO Doug McMillon wrote to employees this week. “Our remaining assortment will be even more focused on the needs of hunting and sport shooting enthusiasts.”

The easy availability of firearms and ammunition from other sources, though, points to the limitations that any one company can have in trying to combat gun violence, even one as big as Walmart.

In his letter Tuesday, McMillon called on federal lawmakers to strengthen background checks and remove weapons from those deemed to pose an imminent threat — measures that would have a much broader effect than the company’s new policies.

Bob’s Little Sport Shop in Glassboro, N.J., has been selling guns, ammunition and hunting equipment in South Jersey since 1975. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Bob Viden, Jr., for one, says he has no intention of restricting sales of any kind of guns or ammunition.

“There’s none of the ammunition here that isn’t used for a lawful purpose, so why should I restrict that lawful purpose?” he said.

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