Retail giant Walmart removed guns and ammunition from its U.S. sales floors this week out of concern for theft amid “civil unrest” over the killings of Black people by police.
On Friday, it reversed course, returning guns to shelves.
Even when they were not displayed, guns were available for purchase upon request, said the company, which sells firearms in about half of its 4,750 U.S. stores.
Walmart has pulled guns off its shelves in the past ― most recently in June, amid the summer’s protests over police killings. The shooting death of Walter Wallace Jr. by Philadelphia police on Monday has touched off another wave of demonstrations as a contentious election season comes to a head.
Walmart said in a statement Friday afternoon that the guns had been moved to “a secure location in the back of the store” because “civil unrest earlier this week resulted in damage to several of our stores.”
“As the current incidents have remained geographically isolated, we have made the decision to begin returning these products to the sales floor today,” the company said.
A previous statement, first reported Thursday by The Wall Street Journal, credited “some isolated civil unrest” for the decision to put away the guns. A letter to store managers viewed by the Journal indicated that the instructions had been given on Wednesday.
″[A]s we have done on several occasions over the last few years, we have moved our firearms and ammunition off the sales floor as a precaution for the safety of our associates and customers,” the retailer said in the earlier statement.
A Walmart in Philadelphia was trashed during this week’s unrest.
Wallace, 27, was shot numerous times by Philadelphia officers after his mother called for help for a mental health crisis. Shaky cellphone video shows the officers demanding that Wallace, several yards from them, “put the knife down” before firing.
The family had called for an ambulance, not police, their lawyer said.
Walmart has been pushed to make adjustments to its firearms department after other incidents of violence. After a mass shooting left 17 people dead at a high school in Parkland, Florida, in 2018, the retailer raised the minimum age to purchase guns to 21. In 2019, after 23 people were killed in a mass shooting at a Walmart in Texas, the retailer stopped selling ammunition for assault-style rifles.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.