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Walmart removes guns and ammo from shelves, citing 'isolated civil unrest'

Gun purchase interest tends to rise around stressful events and ahead of elections.
Image: Walmart Sales Soar On Consumer Stockpiling And Shift To Online
A Walmart in Torrance, Calif., on May 19, 2020.Patrick T. Fallon / Bloomberg via Getty Images

Walmart briefly removed all guns and ammunition products from its sales floors in response to concerns about break-ins and civil unrest.

“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,” Kory Lundberg, a spokesman for Walmart, told NBC News in an emailed statement.

The chain reversed its decision Friday stating that because "the current incidents have remained geographically isolated, we have made the decision to begin returning these products to the sales floor today.”

Walmart has removed guns and ammo from its floors at different points over the years, such as following protests over the killing of George Floyd by police, or following an increase in mass shooting events.

The move comes in the wake of peaceful protests that gave way to skirmishes and looting in Philadelphia following the fatal police shooting of a Black man, Walter Wallace Jr. Police tweeted Tuesday night that a "a large crowd of [approximately] 1000 is looting businesses" in the Port Richmond area of the city. Earlier in the evening, news helicopter footage showed people appearing to break in and take items from a Foot Locker store and another business in that area.

Firearm sales interest has soared this year, according to the FBI database of firearm background checks, the best available approximation of total gun sales. The number of checks initiated this year, over 28 million, has already surpassed the total number of checks for all of 2019.

Gun purchase interest tends to rise around stressful events and ahead of elections, where some buyers wish to protect themselves from expected unrest and others are worried that a winning Democrat candidate will pass stiffer gun control laws.

Interest by first-time gun buyers has jumped this year, the CEO of major gun manufacturer Smith & Wesson Brands, Mark Peter Smith, said in a Sept. 3 conference call with investors. The company estimated that firearms newcomers were responsible for roughly 40 percent of sales this year.