Walmart has pulled firearms and ammunition from thousands of store floors across the US to protect customers and employees as tensions rise in parts of the country in the run-up to the presidential election.

The country’s largest retailer cited recent cases of civil unrest for the decision to remove the weapons, which it sells in about half of its 4,750 US stores, mainly in locations popular with hunters and sportspeople. Customers who wish to buy them will still be able to do, but the items have been removed from display.

“We have seen some isolated civil unrest and as we have done on several occasions over the past 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 company said in a statement. “These items do remain available for purchase by customers.”

The retailer’s decision, first reported by The Wall Street Journal, follows unrest in parts of Philadelphia in recent days, sparked by the police killing of Walter Wallace Jr. The family of Wallace, who is black, said he had been suffering from mental health problems.

Video footage has shown Walmart, among other stores, being targeted by looters as demonstrators have faced off against police in areas of west and north Philadelphia.

Walmart took a similar decision in June after the killing of George Floyd by police sparked a wave of protests.

Walmart introduced a series of restrictions on sales of firearms last year, after a gunman with an assault-style rifle launched an attack at a Walmart store in El Paso, Texas, killing 22 people.

After the incident, Walmart said it would discontinue sales of ammunition that could be used in military-style weapons.

It had previously stopped selling powerful guns such as the AR-15, and prohibited sales to people under the age of 21.

Swamp notes

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