Target tells customers to leave their guns at home

BY William Brangham  July 2, 2014 at 5:28 PM EDT

Following a campaign by gun-control groups, retailing giant Target changed its position on letting armed customers into its stores. In a statement today, interim CEO John Mulligan wrote that Target will now “…respectfully request that guests not bring firearms to Target — even in communities where it is permitted by law.”

Target was drawn into the gun debate when “open-carry” gun-rights supporters had visited several Target stores across the country with firearms legally on display. Following these visits, Target said it would continue to abide by local laws, which meant that in many “open-carry” states, shoppers carrying loaded handguns, shotguns and semi-automatic weapons were within their rights.

Even though Target’s announcement doesn’t explicitly ban customers from bringing weapons into stores, the move was cheered by gun-control groups.

“Moms everywhere were horrified to see images of people carrying loaded assault rifles down the same aisles where we shop for diapers and toys,” wrote Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America — the gun-control group largely responsible for the public pressure on Target. “Like Chipotle, Starbucks, Facebook, Jack in the Box, Sonic and Chili’s, Target recognized that moms are a powerful customer base and political force – and you can respect the 2nd Amendment and the safety of customers at the same time.”

Gun rights supporters weren’t so pleased with the annoncement. In the comments section on Target’s website just below today’s statement, pro-gun supporters came out in force, criticizing Target’s move and arguing that by asking citizens to leave their guns at home, Target stores will be more dangerous, not less. Many also vowed to reject the company’s request. Facebook commenter Christoper Ellis wrote, “Request all you want. I carry pretty much everywhere FOR MY PROTECTION and will continue to do so.”