Target asks customers to keep guns out

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Target on Wednesday asked customers to leave their guns behind, joining a growing list of national chains discouraging firearms in their stores. 

"Our approach has always been to follow local laws, and of course, we will continue to do so," Target CEO John Mulligan said in a statement. "But starting today we will also respectfully request that guests not bring firearms to Target — even in communities where it is permitted by law."

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With that announcement, the retail giant follows on the heels of other national companies — including Starbucks, Chipotle and Sonic — that have adopted similar policies in an attempt to keep guns out of their stores, even in spots where local laws allow firearms in public.

The issue is a thorny one for the national chains, which want to create a safe and inviting environment for customers but are also wary of alienating hard-line defenders of the Second Amendment, who have argued that local right-to-carry laws should extend into public retail stores.

Earlier this month, gun-rights groups gathered at several Target stores in Texas, to highlight the company's policy of allowing guns inside. 

In response, Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, an advocacy group, staged its own rallies at several Texas Targets, to protest the chain's lenient gun policies.

Mulligan said he's sympathetic to both sides of the debate but decided that discouraging armed customers would be the safer route, for shoppers and workers alike.  

"We’ve listened carefully to the nuances of this debate and respect the protected rights of everyone involved. In return, we are asking for help in fulfilling our goal to create an atmosphere that is safe and inviting for our guests and team members," Mulligan said.

"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," he added.

Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action, was quick to applaud Target's new position.

"Moms everywhere were horrified to see images of people carrying loaded assault rifles down the same aisles where we shop for diapers and toys," Watts said Wednesday.

“As we look toward election season, we hope our legislators are taking notice that when women and mothers collectively raise our voices — and soon cast our votes, we are determined to leave an impact.”