Chesterfield, VA – A journalist’s attempt to purchase a firearm from a Walmart store ended up being a much more complicated task than she anticipated, due to the store’s strict security measures.
Over 137,000 people have signed a petition demanding that the Walmart chain stop selling all ammunition and firearms, cease making donations to politicians backed by the National Rifle Association, and “ban the public open and concealed carry of weapons on company property” in the wake of shootings at stores in Southaven, Mississippi and El Paso, Texas.
Critics have also alleged that Walmart makes the firearm-buying process too easy, and that it needs to tighten up security restrictions with regards to who is allowed to purchase them.
Business Insider journalist Hayley Peterson said that she wanted to investigate the company’s marketing, security, and sales processes, so she set out to purchase a gun from a nearby store.
Approximately half of the 4,700 Walmart stores in the U.S. sell firearms, Peterson said.
Instead of traveling to all 10 of the stores near her, Peterson decided to conduct an internet search to see which ones sell guns.
But the only guns she could find online during her 30-minute search were air guns.
She then spent over 90 minutes placing over a dozen calls to various stores, and still didn’t get an answer to her question.
At one point, Peterson called the company’s main customer service line, but the representative was only able to help by letting her know that at least one of the stores on her list didn’t sell firearms.
“When it comes to item availability, they don't want us to discuss that because of various reasons," he explained, refusing to elaborate.
After placing more calls, Peterson finally spoke to an employee in the Chesterfield store and confirmed that they sell firearms.
She made the 30-mile trip to the store, and found a locked case of approximately 20 different shotguns and rifles locked behind the counter in the sporting goods section, she said.
The company stopped selling handguns in the 1990s, and hasn’t sold AR-15s or similar semiautomatic rifles since 2015, according to Peterson.
Customers must be 21 years of age to purchase a gun, and have to receive a “green light” on a background check, Walmart CEO Doug McMillon said last week, according to Business Insider.
That’s more than required by federal law, which mandates that applicants only have an absence of a “red light” after three business days, McMillon said.
Peterson said that there wasn’t a single sign advertising the weapons, but that there were signs outlining gun laws and notifying shoppers that the area was being recorded.
As soon as she told the employee behind the counter that she wanted to buy a gun, the employee summoned a manager.
The journalist was ultimately turned away that day because the store didn’t have any authorized firearms sellers on shift.
In order to obtain such qualifications, employees have to pass an enhanced criminal background check, and also have to complete annual online training requirements, Peterson said.
The manager allowed her to handle one of the rifles, but told her she would have to come back in two days when one of the authorized firearms sellers was working if she decided she wanted to purchase it.
Peterson said that the rifles were individually zip-tied to a metal cord inside the locked case, and that the manager had to snip the tie to hand her the weapon.
When the manager returned the gun to the case, she immediately affixed a new zip tie, Peterson said.
Two days later, the journalist made another 30-minute drive to the Chesterfield store to meet with the authorized seller.
The employee immediately called for a coworker to come observe the transaction to ensure that the entire process was done correctly, Peterson said.
Peterson was given a “Department of State Police Virginia Firearms Transaction Record” form to fill out, and was charged $2 for a federal background check.
But as she was beginning the paperwork, the employee asked her whether or not the address on her driver’s license matched the address where she was living.
Peterson said that she had moved since the license was issued, so the employee told her that she would need to come back with a government-issued document that showed her residential address, such as a vehicle registration.
“At this point, I decided to give up on buying a gun at Walmart,” Peterson said. “I had invested several hours across two days on this.”
“Overall, the experience left me with the impression that buying a gun at Walmart is more complicated than I expected, and that Walmart takes gun sales and security pretty seriously,” she added.
Walmart spokesperson Randy Hargrove said that Peterson’s experience confirmed what the company has been saying about its thorough and strict firearms sales processes, Business Insider reported.
"In areas of the country where we sell firearms, we have a long-standing commitment to do so safely and in a compliant manner," Hargrove said.
Thus far, Walmart has not announced any policy changes in the wake of the shootings, Business Insider reported.
Walmart accounts for approximately two percent of firearms sales and 20 percent of ammunition sales in the U.S., according to Business Insider.