Target is “politely asking” its customers to leave the heat at home.
The CEO of the retail giant announced Wednesday that customers are being actively discouraged from carrying guns in its stores, a departure from the company’s open-carry policy. The change applies to all Target locations, including those in states where laws allow people to freely walk around with guns.
“As you’ve likely seen in the media, there has been a debate about whether guests in communities that permit 'open carry' should be allowed to bring firearms into Target stores,” the company's interim CEO John Mulligan said in a news release. “Our approach has always been to follow local laws, and of course, we will continue to do so. But starting today we will also respectfully request that guests not bring firearms to Target — even in communities where it is permitted by law.
"Bringing firearms to Target creates an environment that is at odds with the family-friendly shopping and work experience we strive to create."
Target has been involved in a debate about whether to allow its customers who live in open-carry areas to bring guns into its stores. Prior to Wednesday’s decision, those customers were free to do so.
Target spokeswoman Molly Snyder said that even though the company has announced it would like people to keep their guns out of the store, it doesn't plan to remove people who bring guns, and will "follow all local and state laws."
"As this is a request and not a prohibition, at this time we don’t have plans to proactively communicate our request to our guests beyond what is being shared today," Snyder said via email.
The announcement is welcome news for gun-control advocates, who have been pressuring companies to revise their gun policies to keep guns out of stores. Target has also drawn the ire of its customers over the open-carry issue, which some consumers say makes them feel unsafe.
Last week a group of women with the nonprofit Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America were thrown out of a Target parking lot in Texas for protesting against customers being allowed to carry weapons in the store. Earlier in June, a group of gun rights advocates held a similar demonstration and were allowed to stay.
Moms Demand Action is one of many groups that have been vocal about people carrying guns in stores, and they have had success in pressuring other companies, such as food and beverage companies Starbucks, Chipotle and Jack in the Box, to make changes in their gun policies.
“Moms are thankful that Target responded quickly to the call of nearly 400,000 Americans and asked customers to keep their firearms at home,” Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action, said in a news release. “Moms everywhere were horrified to see images of people carrying loaded assault rifles down the same aisles where we shop for diapers and toys.”
“By saying this is not culturally acceptable to carry your AR-15 rifle in the same aisle as the baby toys, that mothers will not stand for it, absolutely makes a difference” and helps promote reform, Watts told Al Jazeera.
The decision also comes amid the ongoing national dialogue about gun control, which was reignited after a series of mass shootings — including Sandy Hook, Fort Hood and the Washington Navy Yard attacks, among others — dominated national headlines and put increased pressure on lawmakers to reform the nation’s gun laws.
According to the website Shootingtracker.com, there have been 125 mass shootings so far this year.