Wegmans has asked customers to leave their guns at home when shopping at its stores in states where open carry is legal.
The grocery chain was put in the hot seat about the controversial topic and pushed to take a stance after a social media campaign hashtagged #GroceriesNotGuns went viral. It came after two other major grocery chains asked guests not to bring guns into their stores.
Academy award-winning actress Julianne Moore, known for her work in such films as "Boogie Nights" and "Still Alice," asked Wegmans for its position on the issue before her nearly 855,000 Twitter followers Wednesday night.
"Hey @Wegmans – yesterday @Walmart and @kroger stood up for public safety and asked customers not to carry guns in their stores. Will you join them?" she asked in a retweet of the company's tweet about its new store opening in Brooklyn.
Wegmans responded Thursday afternoon.
"There’s nothing more important than the safety of our customers & employees. The sight of someone with a gun can be alarming, and we don’t want anyone to feel that way at Wegmans. For this reason, we prefer that customers not openly carry firearms into our stores," Wegmans tweeted.
Hey @Wegmans - yesterday @Walmart and @kroger stood up for public safety and asked customers not to carry guns in their stores. Will you join them? @MomsDemand @Everytown #GroceriesNotGuns https://t.co/DEqoWClPbF
— Julianne Moore (@_juliannemoore) September 5, 2019
Some critics were quick to take issue with the wording of Wegmans' statement, saying it did not prohibit open carry inside Wegmans stores.
"Prefer??? That word makes your statement useless," tweeted user @honeykennedy. "You can’t have it both ways."
Kroger is "respectfully asking that customers no longer openly carry firearms into our stores, other than authorized law enforcement officers," according to its statement. Walmart is "respectfully requesting" the same for its Walmart and Sam's Club stores, according to its CEO, Doug McMillon.
Open carry of pistols and loaded long guns is not legal in New York, where Wegmans has most of its stores. Open carry is permitted with varying levels of restrictions in the other states where Wegmans does business: Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Jersey, Virginia and North Carolina.
Wegmans was first publicly approached about the issue on Twitter on Tuesday by Shannon Watts, a gun-control activist and founder of the group Moms Demand Action, which advocates for gun law reform.
"Hey @Wegmans – it’s your turn now. When will you prohibit open carry inside your stores? @MomsDemand volunteers are waiting," Watts tweeted.
Watts said on Twitter that she called Wegmans asking why it had not opted to prohibit open carry and said it told her, "We're listening to our customers. We're getting a lot of calls about this today." She did not specify whether she talked to an official spokesperson or a customer service representative. Wegmans had declined to offer official comment to reporters.
Please put the “no guns inside” sticker on your sliding doors. Saying you prefer they not bring in weapons isn’t the same as announcing “no weapons allowed”. Just do the right thing @Wegmans
— TrueSueAZ (@PhoenixGirl73) September 5, 2019
Watts continued to call for consumers to pressure Wegmans into banning open carry in its stores, and others joined in.
"By refusing to say anything, @Wegmans is picking a side. Protect our families' safety or women will shop elsewhere," Watts tweeted, with the number for Wegmans' customer service.
Walmart has also decided to stop selling certain kinds of ammunition. Walmart's CEO said the decision was motivated partly by recent mass shootings.
Last month, 22 people were killed by a mass shooter at a Walmart in Texas. Two Walmart employees were killed in a separate shooting incident July 31 in Mississippi.
“We know these decisions will inconvenience some of our customers, and we hope they will understand,” said Doug McMillon, Walmart's CEO. “As a company, we experienced two horrific events in one week, and we will never be the same.”
Kroger stopped selling firearms and ammunition in its Fred Meyer stores in 2018 after the Marjory Stoneman Douglas school shooting.