CHARLOTTE, N.C. (The Charlotte Observer) - After two fatal shootings at Walmarts over the summer that left two people dead in Mississippi and another 22 dead in Texas, many grocery stores began asking customers to leave their guns at home in states where people are allowed to openly carry them.
On Sept. 3, Walmart CEO Doug McMillon announced that the company would stop selling handgun ammunition and short-barrel rifle ammunition, and asked customers to no longer openly carry weapons in the store. Other grocery stores have begun to follow Walmart’s lead.
In Charlotte, almost every big brand name grocery store said they prefer customers not take handguns inside their stores. But of the stores who responded to The Observer’s questions, only one bans guns outright.
Sprouts Farmers Market, which has a Ballantyne location, prohibits guns carried by customers, with an exception made for law enforcement officers.
“We have a longstanding policy that prohibits firearms or other dangerous weapons in our stores and post signage indicating this information at the entrance of our store,” Sprouts said in a statement.
Unlike South Carolina, North Carolina allows the open carry of firearms without a permit. That means gun owners are legally allowed to carry their guns with them in public.
But businesses or other private property owners, including grocery or retail stores, are allowed to post signs banning all guns, including concealed handguns, from the property if they choose.
And handguns aren’t permitted in restaurants, bars, parades or protests without a concealed carry permit – and aren’t allowed at all at certain state properties, courthouses, or schools and educational properties, according to North Carolina law.
‘A LITTLE UNSAFE’
Some Charlotte shoppers said they’re happy their stores are asking customers to keep guns away.
Sadi Matumuene, shopping at the Walmart on Independence Boulevard Tuesday afternoon with his 2-year-old and 2-month-old children, said he feels safer without guns in stores.
“With what just happened in Texas — especially as a parent, you don’t want anything like that to happen in front of your kids,” he said.
Another Walmart shopper, Tammy Horn, said she agreed people shouldn’t bring guns into stores.
“I think they should at least leave it out in the car,” Horn said. “I feel it’s a little unsafe – everyone with a gun.”
But at a Harris Teeter on Central Avenue, shopper Rob Warren said he owns a handgun and has a concealed carry permit – though he didn’t have his gun with him at the grocery store Tuesday.
“I’m all for open carry,” he said.
Warren said he doesn’t feel like he needs to take a handgun everywhere he goes. But he also doesn’t want to see other people forced to leave their guns at home.
Gun rights advocate Dan Roberts lives just south of Charlotte in Fort Mill, S.C.
Roberts isn’t too worried about the grocery store announcements.
Most fall short of an outright ban, but he said it’s a step in the wrong direction.
“They all kind of jumped on that bandwagon real quick,” he said. “To my way of thinking, it’s kind of cowardly. Nobody wanted to make the first step, but as soon as Walmart did it, they’ll ride their coattails.”
Publix, Lidl, Trader Joe’s and Walmart all gave the Observer statements “respectfully requesting” customers don’t bring guns into stores.
Trader Joe’s called the debate complicated.
“Our approach has always been to follow local laws; and while that will not change, we want to make clear we do not welcome weapons of any kind in our stores,” Trader Joe’s said in a statement.
Food Lion told the Observer the company would “prefer for customers to voluntarily refrain from bringing firearms and other weapons into our stores.”
And Kroger, which owns Harris Teeter, followed Walmart’s lead by putting out a statement “respectfully asking” customers no longer open carry firearms in stores.
Lidl announced its gun request Friday, according to spokesman Will Harwood, and will put up signs in stores outlining the request this month.
Whole Foods did not respond to requests for comment.
At least one weapons policy did not change at Walmart — customers are still allowed to concealed carry weapons with permits.