Kroger joins with Walmart: No more "open carry" in stores

Kroger, the United States’ largest supermarket chain, announced a corporate decision Tuesday about customers who choose to open carry in their stores – don’t do it unless you are a law enforcement officer. This announcement follows on the heels of Walmart’s decision to ask the same of its customers where the law allows guns to be openly carried.

The decision of the second-largest general retailer (behind Walmart) is significant because it indicates a pattern growing of corporate activism not friendly to gun-owners in response to recent mass shootings. Walmart and Kroger set the tone for smaller retailers.

Kroger’s corporate headquarters sent out an email statement on its new policy. You may remember that after the Parkland, Florida mass shooting, Kroger-owned Fred Meyer stores stopped selling firearms to buyers under the age of 21.

“Kroger is respectfully asking that customers no longer openly carry firearms into our stores, other than authorized law enforcement officers,” Jessica Adelman, group vice president of corporate affairs, said in an emailed statement. “We are also joining those encouraging our elected leaders to pass laws that will strengthen background checks and remove weapons from those who have been found to pose a risk for violence.”

“A year ago, Kroger made the conscious decision to completely exit the firearm and ammunition business when we stopped selling them in our Fred Meyer stores in the Pacific Northwest,” she also said. “Kroger has demonstrated with our actions that we recognize the growing chorus of Americans who are no longer comfortable with the status quo and who are advocating for concrete and common sense gun reforms.”

Walmart says the status quo is “unacceptable” and Kroger is joining in with Walmart in a call for more legislation. I guess this means the status quo of a good guy with a gun in a store to help protect customers, should it be necessary, just isn’t the way to go.

Kroger has felt the heat from special interest groups advocating for stricter gun control, including banning open carry, so bowing to pressure after Walmart agreed to do so probably gives the grocery chain some cover. As of early Wednesday morning, as I write this, there is no tweet about Kroger’s decision on its corporate Twitter account. Kroger isn’t quite as in-your-face as Walmart has been. Yet. For now, Kroger is “respectfully asking” customers to not openly carry a gun.

In its statement, Kroger said it would be “respectfully asking” that customers no longer openly carry guns in its stores, except for authorized law enforcement officers. It is unclear whether or how the grocer plans to enforce this request.

There is no mention in the statements from either Kroger or Walmart of how exactly the new policy request will be enforced or if armed security will be added to stores. Will the chains make additional expenditures for store security? By publicly announcing that customers are no longer welcome to openly carry a gun into a store, the bad guys are emboldened. It’s the same as when businesses and other public spaces post notices at front entries that the building is a gun-free zone. Perhaps Kroger and Walmart will post signs now to alert customers to keep their guns out of the store.

Ed Scruggs, president of gun safety advocacy group Texas Gun Sense, said a number of retailers in the state (where open carry is legal) request that customers not openly carry in their stores by posting large signs stating the policy in English and Spanish outside their stores. Store workers can ask customers who do not abide by the signs to return the guns to their cars or leave the store, Scruggs said.

All of this sounds like much ado about nothing. These announcements are about open carry, not concealed carry, which is far more popular. Perhaps these corporate decision-makers think that the sight of a gun in public triggers a bad guy. I live in Texas and I can tell you that I have never seen anyone openly carry a gun, other than a police officer or a security guard, in a retail store, including a Kroger grocery store. I’m a Kroger customer and, at least in the area of Houston in which I live, it just doesn’t happen. It sure looks like a whole lot of emotion-based corporate policy to give cover for political posturing.