New policies restricting open carry of firearms at several large chain stores in the country won’t help much in preventing shooting violence, according to Garfield County Sheriff Lou Vallario.
“That’s not going to fix the problem that there are crazy people out there doing violent things. That’s really the sad part of this; it’s a Band-Aid thing,” Vallario said.
After a shooting at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, Walmart CEO Doug McMillon announced Sept. 3 that it is “respectfully requesting that customers no longer openly carry firearms into our stores.” Kroger made a similar request of customers not to shop with openly carried guns.
“In a complex situation lacking a simple solution, we are trying to take constructive steps to reduce the risk that events like these will happen again,” McMillon said in his letter to Walmart employees.
Walmart said it is developing ways to train management to respond to those who open carry, but it’s unclear what that will look like.
“We believe the opportunity for someone to misinterpret a situation, even in open carry states, could lead to tragic results,” McMillon said. All law-abiding customers will be treated with respect, and store employees “will have a very non-confrontational approach,” McMillon said.
Representatives for Walmart and Kroger did not provide additional comment to the Post Independent.
Local law enforcement officials recognized the store’s authority to make the request, but noted that open carrying has not been an issue in Garfield County.
“I have not heard, through the sheriff’s office or anything, of this being a problem anywhere at the stores in our county. If it is, it’s being dealt with at (the store) level,” Vallario said.
Rifle Police Chief Tommy Klein said a manager at the Rifle Walmart called him the morning the policy was announced to let him know what they were doing.
“We’ve never had an issue with open carry, that I’m aware of, at either store,” Klein said.
Klein declined to say whether the policy would increase public safety, but noted that open carry is not uncommon in Rifle.
Under Colorado law, people are allowed to carry a concealed weapon in most places if they have a permit. Walmart is not changing its position on concealed weapons, and Kroger has not addressed concealed weapons.
Walmart and Kroger’s guidance against open carry is not a ban.
“They said they’re asking customers not to open carry. They did not say they’re prohibiting it,” said Ed Wilks, a Second Amendment advocate and owner of the Tradesman gun store in Rifle.
As private entities, stores can refuse business to anyone, so long as the refusal is not on the basis of sex, religion or race.
“Walmart is a private company, they may do whatever they want,” Wilks said.
Wilks said he believes Walmart is concerned about people carrying weapons into stores to make a political statement, as many gun rights advocates say they’ve done since the announcement.
Such political statements are counterproductive to Second Amendment causes, Wilks said.
“For the record, if I’m in Walmart with my children and I see a guy open carry an M4 (carbine, the primary infantry weapon for some branches of the U.S. Armed Forces) with armor plate, I too am going to leave my cart, take my children and walk out,” Wilks added.
As a Second Amendment advocate, Wilks points to cases where violent shooters or other offenders are stopped by someone with a concealed weapon.
And he noted some hypocrisy in Walmart’s focus on guns, when the store sells alcohol, which is responsible for far more deaths each year than gun violence.
John Krousouloudis, chair of the Garfield County Democrats, lauded the Walmart and Kroger’s statements and said he thought the intentions were good.
Krousouloudis made a distinction between open carry and concealed carry, People who open carry sometimes do not have the same level of training as those with concealed permits, Krousouloudis said, and those aren’t the kinds of people one wants toting a firearm in public.
“People who open carry are not necessarily trained and screened. So, I’m not comfortable with those people carrying,” Krousouloudis said.