Target: No guns in stores, please

Rebecca Robbins / The Washington Post

Published Jul 3, 2014 at 12:01AM

Target on Wednesday said it would “respectfully request” that its customers no longer carry firearms inside its stores, after facing mounting pressure from gun-control activists who put the chain in the crosshairs of a national debate about open carry laws.

The change will apply to both concealed and unconcealed guns in all of the Minneapolis-based retailer’s nearly 1,800 U.S. stores, the company confirmed.

“This is a complicated issue, but it boils 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,” John Mulligan, the company’s interim chief executive, said in a memo posted on Target’s website.

Target is the latest large retailer to be drawn into the gun-control debate. Last September, Starbucks asked its patrons to leave their guns at home, and Chipotle, Jack in the Box, Sonic Drive-In, and Chili’s Grill & Bar all made similar requests in May. Facebook and Instagram also recently announced plans to tighten policies governing images and posts selling firearms.

Target found itself drawn into the fray this spring when a Texas gun-rights group posted photos online of some of its members openly carrying long guns in Target stores. The photos prompted rebuke from the National Rifle Association’s lobbying arm, which called the demonstrations “downright weird” in a statement on its website. A few days later, NRA’s top lobbyist backtracked on that criticism, saying it had come from an unauthorized staffer.

The photos spurred a month-long counter-campaign from the gun-control group Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, which took to social media and launched petitions to urge Target to prohibit customers from carrying guns in its stores. The group has attributed other retailers’ similar moves to its previous campaigns.