Walmart pulls guns and ammo from sale at thousands of stores ahead of US election over fears of bloodshed and violence

WALMART has pulled guns and ammunition from its shelves in thousands of stores ahead of the US election over fears of bloodshed and violence.

The nation's largest retailer cited "civil unrest" as the reason behind the move, and said staff had been asked to stop displaying guns "out of an abundance of caution".

Walmart, based in Bentonville, Arkansas, sells firearms in about half of its 4,700 stores.

"We have seen some isolated civil unrest and as 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," a Walmart spokesman said in a statement.

According to Fox Business, a letter to store managers asked staff to stop displaying firearms "due to the current unrest in isolated areas of the country and out of an abundance of caution".

The retailer said customers can still buy guns and ammunition, but the items will not be on display inside stores.

Walmart also removed firearms from thousands of stores following the widespread unrest sparked by the death of George Floyd in May.

The latest move comes after several days of violent protests in Philadelphia after police fatally shot Walter Wallace Jr – a 27-year-old Black man with a history of mental health problems.

More than 90 people have been arrested during the unrest and 50 police officers have been injured during clashes with protesters and vandals.

Thousands of protesters swarmed a shopping center on Tuesday night, breaking windows and stealing merchandise.

While campaigning this week in Arizona, President Donald Trump expressed outrage over the violent protests and attempted to use it to court suburban voters.

"I can tell you, Biden and Harris stand with the rioters and the vandals," Trump said of the former vice president and Senator Kamala Harris.

"I stand with the heroes of law."

Meanwhile, the Biden campaign issued a joint statement in which Biden and Harris said that Wallace's "was a black life that mattered".

"We cannot accept that in this country a mental health crisis ends in death," it said.

Retailers have been on edge after protesters smashed windows, stole merchandise and set stores on fire in Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, Portland and other US cities earlier this year.

It comes as gun sales in the US have reached record highs this year, and more first-time buyers have purchased firearms in recent months.

A recent YouGov poll found that half of Americans expect to see an increase in violence as a result of the election.

The study raises the spectre of a second civil war in the US amid warnings extremists are more willing to resort to violence.

Following the death of George Floyd, Black Lives Matter protesters were joined by the hard-left Antifa group, who have burned American flags and battled with cops.

The demonstrations have often descended into violence and have seen far-right organizations such as the Proud Boys stage counter demonstrations in places such as Portland, Oregon and Kenosha.

Fears have been raised that this already smouldering conflict could explode into full scale violence should Trump refuse to accept the result of the election and his supporters and their opponents take to the streets.

The US president recently said his administration will "crush any riots" that might unfold if he's declared the winner of the presidential election.

Alex Theodoridis, an associate professor of political science at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, has studied the country's growing divide.

"My research, and work by others, shows that most partisans are willing to metaphorically dehumanize those from the other party and that this dehumanization predicts greater tolerance for partisan violence," he said.

Last year, Walmart also stopped selling handgun and short-barrel rifle ammunition and asked customers not to openly carry firearms in its stores, even where state laws allow it.

The company also ended the sale of handguns in Alaska, the only state where the retailer sold them.

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