After a successful early summer campaign convinced Target to ask gun advocates to leave their weapons outside stores, a grassroots group of mothers is taking on another heavyweight: Kroger grocery stores. On Thursday, Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America launched a advertising campaign that calls into question “Kroger’s policy to allow the open carry of loaded weapons inside its stores, but to prohibit food, skateboarding, and shirtless men.”
The group, which is nonpartisan but has been partially funded by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, spent six figures on advertisements in several print newspapers, online, and on billboards. The ads provide a striking contrast between actions that don’t harm anyone—after all, no one gets hurt if a little girl is eating ice cream—and someone carrying a loaded rifle in a grocery store. “One of them isn’t welcome at Kroger. Guess which one,” reads the ad copy.
Some shoppers may not realize that their local grocery is owned by Kroger. Along with Kroger stores, the corporate behemoth operates Fred Meyer, Food4Less, Harris Teeter, and Ralph’s stores. The Cincinnati, Ohio–based company is the second-largest retailer in the United States after Walmart, and the moms believe it’s time for Kroger to stick to groceries, not guns.
“In all states, but especially those where gun laws are lax, businesses have an obligation to protect their employees and patrons,” Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action, said in a statement. Watts founded the organization the day after the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, which took the lives of 26 people—20 children and six adults.
Along with the advertisements, the moms have launched a petition directed at Kroger Company President and COO Michael Ellis and CEO W. Rodney McMullen. “Please keep your employees, customers, and their families safe from the threat of gun violence by prohibiting people from openly carrying weapons in your stores,” states the petition. According to Moms Demand Action, more than 100,000 people have signed the petition.
On the group’s Facebook page, the gun sense organization posted a photo of a man carrying a loaded weapon in a Kroger store in Tennessee. “Most state laws are so lax that open carry is allowed without background checks, permitting or training,” wrote the organization. “Kroger's refusal to stop open carry is putting customers and employees at risk.”
However, Keith Dailey, Kroger’s director of media relations, released a statement clarifying the grocer’s policy on firearms. “Millions of customers are present in our busy grocery stores every day and we don't want to put our associates in a position of having to confront a customer who is legally carrying a gun,” wrote Dailey. “That is why our long-standing policy on this issue is to follow state and local laws and to ask customers to be respectful of others while shopping. We know that our customers are passionate on both sides of this issue and we trust them to be responsible in our stores.”
On the Kroger Facebook page, both supporters and detractors of the anti–open carry petition are weighing in.
“Hi Kroger. Just [want] to tell you I skipped your store today and shopped elsewhere due to your lack of a sensible policy on guns in your stores,” wrote a commenter named Paula Scott.
“Well, I needed some groceries. So I went to Kroger,” replied a commenter named Julie Bush. “And guess what? I didn't get shot. No one pulled out their gun and started shooting.”