Walmart Joins Dick’s To Raise Minimum Age To Buy Any Gun To 21

Following yesterday's move by Dick's Sporting Goods, Walmart has raised the age for all gun sales to 21.

One day after Dick’s Sporting Goods announced that it would remove “assault weapons” from its stores and raise the age on all gun sales to 21 regardless of the applicable law in a given state, Walmart announced that it too would be raising the minimum age for gun purchases:

The world’s largest retailer, Walmart, announced a change to its policies Wednesday, saying it would raise the minimum age required to buy a firearm and ammunition and remove any items that resemble assault rifles from its shelves.

In a statement, the company said it would raise its age requirement to 21 from 18, a decision it made ”in light of recent events” — most notable the national discussion about gun control since the Feb. 14 shooting at a high school in Florida that left 17 people dead.

“We take seriously our obligation to be a responsible seller of firearms and go beyond Federal law by requiring customers to pass a background check before purchasing any firearm,” the company said.

The move is the latest by a private company to address increasingly loud grievances about the availability of guns in the absence of meaningful legislative action. Earlier in the day, Dick’s Sporting Goods, announced that it would stop selling assault rifles and high-capacity magazines and raise the minimum age it requires to buy a gun to 21.

The suspect in the Parkland, Fla., shooting purchased a gun legally at Dick’s in November, officials said. But the AR-15 used in the shooting had been purchased at another store, raising questions about the efficacy of policy changes at individual stores and chains.

Though Walmart had stopped selling assault rifles in 2015, it said it would now also remove guns that resemble such weapons from its website, such as airsoft guns and toys.

Gun control has been a topic of public discourse after every mass shooting. But the bloodshed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland and the persistent and organized rallies by student survivors have reinvigorated the debate over whether guns should be more thoroughly regulated nationwide.


Public backlash against the NRA has been building as well. More than a dozen companies, including United Airlines, Delta, Best Western and MetLife, have cut corporate discounts and other perks for NRA members since the shooting.

As Derek Hawkins at The Washington Post notes, this move by America’s largest bricks and mortar retailer has come after years on which it has wobbled to some extent on the issue of gun sales:

Sam Walton, the founder of Walmart, was big on guns. An avid hunter, he opened his flagship store in Bentonville, Ark., specifically so he could be close to his in-laws’ quail hunting ranch. Remington shotguns were his favorite, as Field and Stream once noted. He was such a devout fan that the gun maker issued a commerative model in his name after he died.

Firearms, in turn, have long made up a key part of Walmart’s business. In addition to being the world’s largest retailer, Walmart is often referred to as the world’s largest gun retailer. But its relationship with firearm sales has been fickle in the 25 years since it made the landmark decision to stop carrying handguns. As economic and political winds have shifted, so have Walmart’s gun policies, though the general trend has been toward more restrictions.

On Wednesday, Walmart said it would raise the minimum age to buy a firearm or ammunition from 18 to 21 and remove products resembling assault-style rifles, like airsoft guns and toys, from its inventory, as The Washington Post reported. The company said in a statement that it made the decision “in light of recent events” — an inescapable reference to the recent mass shooting at a Parkland, Fla., high school that left 17 people dead.

It was an unusual acknowledgment from Walmart, which has often attributed its changing positions on gun sales to market factors, even when other issues are present.

Walmart was late to the game in 1993 when it decided to stop selling handguns. Other major retailers such as Sears and J.C. Penny had pulled firearms from their shelves years earlier, as the New York Times reported at the time.

That year, national rates of gun homicides and violent gun crimes reached record highs, according to Pew Research Center. Walmart’s representatives said that the company was ending handgun sales at its 2,000 stores because marketing surveys showed that people felt “uncomfortable” seeing semiautomatic pistols displayed alongside clothing and household items.

Though the stores continued to carry shotguns and rifles, some worried that the move would erode the legacy of Walton, who died the previous year. “It was something Sam liked, a reflection of him, and they will look at it as taking something away from the tradition of Walmart,” Walter F. Loeb, president of Loeb Associates Inc., a retail consulting firm, told the Times.

Another major move came in 2006, when Walmart announced it would stop selling firearms entirely at all but a third of its American stores, which then numbered around 3,000. Again, the company said the decision was market-driven, citing “diminished customer relevancy” in the suburban and urban areas where Walmart was expanding. And again, hunting and firearms enthusiasts voiced concerns that the company was drifting away from its outdoorsy roots, as the Associated Press noted.

Just two years later, Walmart made it harder to buy firearms at the stores that were still selling them. The company signed on to a plan led by then-New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg that created a computerized log of purchases, introduced stringent inventory controls and set up systems to film every firearm sale. The Bloomberg-backed news website the Trace, which covers guns in America, says the move made Walmart’s policies tougher than the federal government’s background checks.

But when the economic recession took hold in 2009, Walmart’s sales slumped. And after a five-year hiatus at most of its locations, the company started quietly filling up shelves with shotguns, rifles and ammunition, as the Wall Street Journal reported in 2011.

It was part of a larger push to bring back “heritage categories” like sewing and outdoors equipment after Walmart’s attempts to carry more “upscale” products backfired, according to the Journal. Gun sales were also on the rise at that time, driven in part by fears of regulation by a Democratic administration. Half of Walmart’s nearly 4,000 stores, including some in urban areas, started selling firearms again.

In 2012, after the mass shooting in Newtown, Conn., Walmart resisted calls to stop selling assault-style rifles such as the Bushmaster AR-15, which gunman Adam Lanza used to massacre children and teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary School. But the company did remove a listing on its website for the weapon out of sensitivity for the victims, a spokesman told CNN at the time. Meanwhile, in the weeks after the attack, semiautomatic rifles sold out at Walmart locations around the country. The company even had to ration ammunition sales after President Barack Obama’s reelection.

Eventually, Walmart did stop selling the Bushmaster and other “assault weapons” in its store, an announcement it made seemingly out of the blue in 2015 that didn’t appear to coincide with any individual mass shooting event or a public relations campaign by gun control advocates. It did, however, come after the incident outside Roanoke, Virginia that month that resulted in the on-air death of a reporter and her cameraman, though the weapon used in that case was a handgun rather than an “assault rifle.” That means that, at this point, the only weapons that are generally available for sale at Walmart appear to be shotguns, standard hunting rifles, which are also “semi-automatic” like a so-called “assault weapon” but lack the cosmetic and other features that distinguish a gun like an AR-15 from such weapons, and some kinds of handguns. As with the policy change announced by Dick’s, Walmart’s change also applies to the sale of ammunition for any kind of gun.

As I noted yesterday, the Walmart announcement comes just over two weeks after the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida that left seventeen students dead. It also comes amid a public relations campaign that has mostly been aimed at companies that have affiliations with the National Rifle Association. As a result of that campaign, dozens of companies have ended referral programs or discount offers that were available to NRA members, this has primarily included airlines and hotel chains that offered discounts to NRA members either at any time of year or as part of a flight to wherever the annual NRA convention happens to be in a given year. Additionally, several insurance companies that either offer discounts to NRA members or, in some cases, underwrote the policies that the NRA offered to individual gun owners and school districts to cover allowing teachers and other civilians to carry weapons on campus has announced that they would no longer offer the policies. While some of these companies have faced blowback from conservatives and gun rights supporters for their decision, it does not appear to be a very large backlash at this point and it seems clear that these companies believe that these companies believe that, in the long run, responding positively to pressure on issues that polling currently shows most Americans agree is not going to cost them many customers and may actually gain them more foot traffic and sales then they’d otherwise get.

Update: Kroger has joined Dick’s and Walmart to announce that it will no longer sell guns to anyone under 21 at it’s “Fred Meyer,” stores. These stores are located in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Alaska. The chain had previously stopped selling “assault style” weapons in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho and also announced today that it would stop accepting special orders for these types of weapons to its locations in Alaska.

Update #2: L.L. Bean has also raised the minimum age to purchase a gun to 21.

FILED UNDER: Economics and Business, Guns and Gun Control, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. michael reynolds says:

    At one level this ain’t much.

    But at another level Hillbilly Nordstrom just decided that selling assault rifles to teenagers is a bad PR move. It’s that admission, the acceptance of the connection (obvious to any rational person but hidden from the ‘minds’ of gun nuts) between guns and gun murders.

    Yes, my opioid-gulping, pick-up truck driving, Confederate flag-waving friends, you have been betrayed by Retail Jesus. You know what it means, right? It means we liberals have infiltrated, bringing our godless homosexual agenda and race-mixing and all-around emasculated cuckoldry to the very place where Right-thinking Americans go to buy the extended clips they’ll need to fight and win the coming race war. Or to investigate Pizza parlor sex cults involving Hillary Clinton.

    Next on the liberal target list: Dollar General. We’re going to make them sell surplus Lady Gaga, ‘Born This Way’ shirts. Yes, to children!

  2. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    Look out all you gun fetishists…Denture Donnie is coming for your guns!!!

    “…take the firearms first and then go to court. Because that’s another system. A lot of times by the time you go to court, it takes so long to go to court, to get the due process. I like taking the guns early. Like in this crazy man’s case that just took place in Florida. He had a lot of firearms. They saw everything. To go to court would have taken a long time. You could do exactly what you’re saying but take the guns first, go through due process second.”

    Holy prior-restraint, Batman.

  3. michael reynolds says:

    @Daryl’s other brother Darryl:
    You know, it’s almost as if Dear Leader is too fwcking dumb to know how to regurgitate his talking points. But never fear, nothing will happen. Nothing Trump rants about ever does happen, does it? End Obamacare? Build a wall with Mexican money? Infrastructure jobs? And Mr. Magoo is still AG.

  4. James Pearce says:

    The company said in a statement that it made the decision “in light of recent events” — an inescapable reference to the recent mass shooting at a Parkland, Fla., high school that left 17 people dead.

    Wal-Mart deserves unqualified praise for this move. Gun biz irresponsibility has been a major contributing factor to these mass shootings and considering we’re not getting any new gun control laws anytime soon, self-regulation may be the best we’re going to get.

  5. Not the IT Dept. says:

    When retailers start making these kind of changes it’s a sign that they’ve calculated it will be good for them financially and that good PR balances any negativity they’ll get from NRA types. Which is a pretty good sign that the NRA may finally have hit the limits of its appeal.

    That these decisions are coming out in the wake of Wayne LaPierre’s increasingly deranged public comments about enemies and being under attack is interesting as well. LaPierre is a man in need of help and one hopes his family is taking steps to make it happen.

  6. James Pearce says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Yes, my opioid-gulping, pick-up truck driving, Confederate flag-waving friends, you have been betrayed by Retail Jesus.

    Some stereotypes never die. When was the last time you were in a Wal-Mart, dude?

  7. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    @michael reynolds:

    But never fear, nothing will happen.

    Of course…there is exactly as much chance of it happening as there was of Obama confiscating their guns. But they believed Obama was going to…ostensibly because he isn’t orange.

  8. michael reynolds says:

    @James Pearce:
    Johnson City, Tennessee. We used to go to the Wal-Mart and see if we could spot a woman without a black eye.

    Don’t play working class hero with me, Pearce: 10 years waiting tables, 2 years cleaning homes, a year in retail, 2 years house painting, in such upper class hangs as the Florida panhandle, Newport News, Ocean City, Long Beach and Johnson City. For starters.

    The fact is that the majority of guns in this country are owned by a tiny slice of the population, and they are exactly the cliché.

  9. inhumans99 says:

    @James Pearce:

    I will give Michael a pass on that one as it is worth a chuckle or two…heck, here in Fremont, CA of all places I sometimes see folks in Walmart who might not seem out of place if they were pictured on that infamous and funny people of walmart website.

    Setting aside the reasons why Walmart and a handful of well known sporting goods stores are enacting these new rules I agree that they absolutely deserve a pat on the back for these new firearm purchasing restrictions. A case where the private sector actually is doing Washington’s job for them.

  10. michael reynolds says:


    Despite steep declines in violent crimes, an estimated 70 million firearms were added to American arsenals the past two decades, according to a new landmark study on gun ownership.

    Overall, Americans own an estimated 265 million guns – more than one gun for every American adult, according to the study by researchers at Harvard and Northeastern universities. Half of those guns – 133 million – were in the hands of just 3% of American adults, so-called “super owners” who possessed an average of 17 guns each, it showed.

    The findings include:

    An estimated 55 million Americans own guns.
    The percentage of the U.S. population who own guns decreased slightly from 25% in 1994 to 22% last year.
    Between 300,000 and 600,000 guns are stolen each year.
    Gun owners tend to be white, male, conservative, and live in rural areas.
    25% of gun owners in America are white or multi-racial, compared with 16% of Hispanics and 14% of African Americans.
    There are an estimated 111 million handguns nationwide, a 71% increase from the 65 million handguns in 1994.

    Researchers found that the top reason people owned guns was for protection from other people, even though the rate of violent crime has dropped significantly the past two decades, said Deborah Azrael, director of research at the Harvard Injury Control Research Center and one of the study’s authors.

    White, male, conservative, rural and in possession of half the nation’s guns. So sorry for accurately describing these people.

  11. Kathy says:

    I kind of keep expecting a not-the-onion headline like “Social scientists claim students and teachers may resent seeing their class mates and colleagues die in school shootings.”

  12. RGardner says:

    I regularly go to three different Kroger-owned Fred Meyer stores (hypermarts) in WA and I’ve never seen guns for sale. I have seen ammo, locked up in a case with the butane bottles. I suspect there is less here than meets the eye. Maybe in AK?

  13. R.Dave says:

    I wonder what, if any, legal issues this raises with respect to age discrimination. I haven’t seen that discussed in the handful of articles I’ve read about it, so perhaps there are no such issues, but it seems like there might at least be a hook there to raise a claim. For example, if Chevy decided their dealerships were no longer going to sell cars to anyone over age 65 (or 70 or whatever) because of the increased likelihood of accidents among the elderly, there’d be a major hue and cry about the age discrimination issue.

    ETA: Ha! Never mind, I just answered my own question through 30 seconds of due diligence. Looks like Doug himself linked to a Volokh Conspiracy post about it in the comment thread of the previous Dick’s Sporting Goods article.

    Still, I’m surprised it’s not an above-the-fold discussion point in these articles.

  14. James Pearce says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Johnson City, Tennessee.

    I figured it would have to be somewhere in the interior. One of the things I noticed from my visit to NoCal, aside from the homelessness and general unaffordability, was the dearth of Wal-Marts. Like, you have to go out to San Leandro or Mountain View if you want some Ol Roy dogfood? (For what it’s worth, there aren’t any Wal-Marts in Boulder either.)

    And I’m not playing “working class hero.” I just know there’s a lot of contempt for “Wally-World” on the left and that if you go into any Wal-Mart near me you won’t find very many “opioid-gulping, pick-up truck driving, Confederate flag-waving” types. You will, however, find a bunch of low-income, mostly non-white folks that shop at Wal-Mart because they make a very modest hourly wage and they don’t give a whit about the NIMBYist moralizing from affluent lefty enclaves.

  15. michael reynolds says:

    @James Pearce:
    The Johnson City era – 7 months IIRC – was not one of our better moves. It made sense economically, at the time. We quickly discovered that aside from waiting for Krispy Kreme to light up their, “Hot Donuts Now’ sign, there was nothing to do. But even desperate for any sort of stimulation we avoided Wal-Mart because the people were depressing. I’m not kidding about the number of clearly abused women – black eyes, missing teeth, emaciation. It was disturbing.

    On the other hand, after Katrina when I drove down to Alabama to volunteer I ended up making Wal-Mart runs for a shelter. In the aftermath of chaos, Wal-Mart employees were out putting up new, low-low price stickers. The logistical capabilities of Wal-Mart are awesome. But their stores are cramped, badly-lit, staffed by zombies and depressing. I use Costco.

  16. teve tory says:

    Tomi Lahren‏Verified account

    Hey Lefties, “AR” does NOT stand for “assault rifle.” It stands for “ArmaLite rifle.” You want to take our guns but you don’t know jack about guns. See the problem?

    Patton Oswalt

    Verified account

    23m23 minutes ago
    More Patton Oswalt Retweeted Tomi Lahren

    Guess we got so focused on the “AR-15 bullets ripping into kids” part that we didn’t fetishize the owner’s manual. Our bad!

    I stopped being a conservative ~20 years ago when I realized that the best way to support and defend conservative policy positions was to be dumber than a goddam rock.

  17. wr says:

    @James Pearce: One big reason you won’t find many Wal Marts in No Cal isn’t cultural — it’s that their business model generally doesn’t favor large stores in places with insanely high real estate prices…

  18. James Pearce says:

    @michael reynolds:

    The logistical capabilities of Wal-Mart are awesome. But their stores are cramped, badly-lit, staffed by zombies and depressing.

    A lot of Wal-Mart stores are badly managed, that’s true. One Wal-Mart near me is/was objectively one of the worst Wal-Marts in the country. Not only did millions of dollars walk out the front door in the form of theft, but according to the Denver PD, it’s also the number 1 address for criminal complaints in the city.

    But go down I-70 a little bit, to the one on Tower Road, and you’re going to step into a well-lit, clean retail oasis. In other words, it’s a good company with some badly managed stores.


    it’s that their business model generally doesn’t favor large stores in places with insanely high real estate prices…

    Wal-Mart’s strategy the last decade or so has been to open smaller, groceries-only stores branded as “Neighborhood Markets.” Most of those new stores are remodels thanks to the supply of vacant retail space.

    I mean, other grocery stores have opened in NoCal in the last ten years, haven’t they?

  19. bookdragon says:

    @teve tory: I am now waiting for the response I’ve heard from several teens to this sort of thing.

    Lahren: You want to take our guns but you don’t know jack about guns. See the problem?

    Teen: Uh-huh. So, I can’t advocate for any sort of gun control unless I know every detail about every gun ever. But as soon as I turn 18, I can go buy an AR-15 even if I know absolutely nothing about guns and have zero experience on how to use them safely. [eye roll]

  20. Tyrell says:

    But do seniors still get a discount?
    Will the 21 years age rule apply to crossbows? Fishing rods? Hunting knives?