Last week, retail chain Target announced a decision that shocked many and caused massive debate across the United States. In a press statement delivered in early July, the company’s CEO revealed that Target is “politely asking” its clients to not bring firearms into the store. The new Target firearm policy will become effective in all Target stores, including those situated in states where it is legal for people to carry weapons. This new firearm policy is radically different from the company’s former open-carry stance on fire weapons.
The news statement, delivered by Target’s interim CEO John Mulligan, addressed the recent debate regarding the issue. Many of the store’s customers put the concept of ‘open carry’ into question. Mulligan explained Target has decided to go on enforcing state laws in all its location. They’re now actively persuading customers to not bring weapons into Target stores. According to Target’s new stance, the ‘open carry’ approach directly contradicts the company’s desire to create a family-friendly work and shopping environment. The statement was followed by further clarifications from Target’s spokesperson, Molly Snyder. She said that Target staff will never remove people who do carry weapons from its premises, as long as these occurrences take place in open carry states. They’re simply making a polite request and not prohibiting weapons from their locations altogether.
The Background on This New Target Firearm Policy
As is always the case with such hotly debated topics, the company’s decision follows a general debate between gun ownership and gun control advocates across the United States. Those on the anti ‘open carry’ side of the fence have been pressuring American companies to prohibit guns in their store locations. They’ve been hard at work, massively lobbying against open carry policies and demanding that companies revise them. One of their main arguments was that some shoppers have complained that Target’s open carry policy is make them feel unsafe.
In late June, a notable incident linked with Target’s open carry policy occurred in Texas, in the parking lot of one of the Target stores in open carry states. A group of female members of the Moms Demand Action not-for-profit organization in Texas were removed from a Target parking lot. At the time of the event, the women were actively engaged in a protest against Target’s policy, which allowed customers to carry firearms in stores. Interestingly, a similar protest took place in the proximity of a Target store in Texas, also in June – this time involving gun rights advocates. Target did not remove members of this group.
Moms Demand Action is one of the above-cited gun-control pressure groups. Throughout the past months, they actively lobbied for companies to change their open carry policies in store locations. Thus far, they have successfully convinced Chipotle, Jack in the Box and Starbucks to amend their rules and regulations on carrying firearms. According to the group’s founder, Shannon Watts, over 400,000 Americans expressed their wish to see Target change its open carry policy. She added that some clients find it disturbing “to see images of people carrying loaded assault rifles down the same aisles where we shop for diapers and toys”.
Has the New Target Firearm Policy Changed Their Minds on Firearms?
Current data shows that 134 mass shootings took place in the United States this year. Some of the more high-profile incidents, such as the ones at Sandy Hook and Fort Hood, reopened the public debate on gun control. Gun control activists have taken the reigniting of the debate as an opportunity to pressure companies into renouncing their open carry policies. On the other side of the debate there are those who see Target’s recent decision as a bizarre interpretation of the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution. Since Target is a privately owned company and its stores are private property, it is free to act however it sees fit on the matter. This also means the company could actually impose a rule prohibiting guns in its stores. As of the moment, Target is the biggest retailer in the U.S. to discourage the open display of firearms in its stores.
Is the New Target Firearm Policy Right?
The debate on gun ownership vs. gun control is complex. It has been fraught with a lot of recent tension. On the one hand, many view the pressure from groups such as Moms demand Action (for Gun Sense in America – full name) as excessive. It’s also worth noting that the not-for-profit was founded by Michael Bloomberg, the former New York City. Then, there’s the NRA’s take on the matter, which has also been confusing. As the national debate raged on, the NRA first called the Texans’ habit of carrying guns in stores “not neighborly.” They later recanted their statement and apologized.
The backlash to Target’s decision was an initiative by Open Carry Texas. The organization’s members sported rifles and other large weapons at several Target stores. Their point was to make open carry seem more normal to other clients. Costco prohibits the open display of fire arms in its stores. Wal-Mart allows it as long as it’s legal to carry arms in that state. After all is said and done, Target’s decision appears to be politically motivated. Watts herself hinted: “As we look towards election season, we hope our legislators are taking notice that when woman and mothers collectively raise our voices—and soon our votes, we are determined to leave an impact”.