A loaded gun left in a Walmart restroom in South Carolina raises the question of whether a drive to encourage national chains to declare their premises off-limits to open carry of guns could prompt a change in policy at Walmart.

Target has joined Chipotle, Sonic and others in saying those openly carrying guns are not welcome on premises. This followed some heavy-handed actions by open carry advocates who paraded around such businesses with semi-automatic rifles.


Countervailing demonstrations have come from the Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.

For now, Walmart, which is a major weapons retailer, is standing fast.


 “Our policy is to comply with all state, federal and local laws as it pertains to carrying firearms,” Walmart spokesman Brian Nick told HuffPost on Thursday. “We’re not considering any changes at this time.”

But …. what precisely is the law as it pertains to carrying firearms in Arkansas? Concealed carry permit holders can take their concealed handguns on private premises that don’t otherwise post bans. The more difficult question is open carry. A technical law change in 2013, not intended to allow open carry, has been interpreted to have done just that because of sloppy drafting (or else malicious intent of gun advocates who kept their intention to themselves through legislative debate). It remains a hotly debated question whether open carry is legal in Arkansas. 

So what is the Walmart position on guns in Arkansas? Does it indeed welcome concealed carry? It must if it doesn’t prohibit it with required postings.


But if a gang strolled in openly carrying assault rifles or semi-automatic pistols, what would the Walmart greeter say? “Welcome to Walmart!” Or, “Sorry, open carry is not allowed in Walmart because it is not legal in Arkansas.”

I have put the question to corporate. (In other states, open carry, if legal, is allowed unless it conflicts with state laws that prohibit weapons where alcohol is sold. Some, but not all, Walmarts in Arkansas sell beer.)

Huffington Post commented:

“Target has fashioned itself as the place you go if you’re a savvy, cosmopolitan shopper,” Saul Cornell, a Fordham University professor and legal historian of firearm regulation, told HuffPost. “Walmart has cultivated more of a folksy, all-American persona.”

Headquartered in Minneapolis, Target is “part of the progressive Midwest,” said Cornell. Arkansas-based Walmart, on the other hand, is deeply entrenched in the South, where, over the last quarter-century, the National Rifle Association has propagated a strong Second Amendment orthodoxy.

“This is an interesting one, to see if the Moms’ social media campaign can crack South Carolina and crack Walmart,” Cornell said. “It’s an uphill battle, but if they could, that would be monumental.”