Target takes stance against guns and asks shoppers to leave firearms at home


CEO John Mulligan says ‘bringing firearms to Target creates an environment at odds with the family-friendly experience’

Target: change of policy. Target: change of policy. Photograph: Don Emmert/AFP/Getty Images
Target: change of policy. Target: change of policy. Photograph: Don Emmert/AFP/Getty Images

Target has joined the growing list of major commercial chains that have taken a stance against the gun lobby, announcing that customers carrying rifles will not be welcome in any of its stores even in states where “open carry” of weapons is legal.

In a statement, Target’s interim CEO John Mulligan said that following much debate about what he described as a “complex issue,” the company had decided to ask customers not to bring “firearms to Target – even in communities where it is permitted by law”. He added that the decision boiled down to a “simple belief: bringing firearms to Target creates an environment that is at odds with the family-friendly shopping and work experience we strive to create.”

The announcement comes a month after Target found itself in the middle of a ferocious battle between pro-gun activists and their gun-safety opponents. “Open-carry” activists have been staging protests in several states including Texas, Alabama, North Carolina, Washington, Wisconsin and Virginia in which they walk through retail outlets visibly brandishing weapons as a way of flaunting their right to do so under local state laws.

As a counter-protest, Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense, a national organisation formed in the wake of the Newtown school shooting, launched a petition in which it called on Target to make clear its stance on the carrying of guns in its stores. The petition has attracted almost 400,000 signatures.

Moms Demand Action also organized what it calls “stroller jams” in which members gathered outside Target franchises across the country to ramp up pressure on the chain’s management to make clear its position on guns being brandished in its stores.

Last week, one such stroller jam in San Antonio, Texas was disrupted after Target reportedly asked the demonstrators to leave the parking lot, prompting complaints that the chain was treating pro-gun activists more leniently than those who are trying to improve public safety in America.

Target’s capitulation brings it in line with several other of the largest retail corporations in America which have previously announced policies designed to keep guns out of their stores, including Starbucks, Jack in the Box, Chipotle, Sonic and Chili’s.

Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action, welcomed Target’s shift in policy. “Such positive safety changes made by some of our country’s leading retailers are proof of the influence of women and mothers. As we look toward election season, we hope our legislators are taking notice that when woman and mothers collectively raise our voices – and soon cast our votes, we are determined to leave an impact.”

On its Facebook page, Open Carry Texas, which has been leading the pro-gun charge, said it regretted Target’s decision. It warned that the move would leave the chain more exposed to crime.

“Time and time again, businesses that have asked guests not to bring legally possessed, self defense firearms into their establishments have seen their employees and customers victimized by criminals preying on the openly defenseless,” the group said.