WASHINGTON — Target Corp. on Wednesday said it would ‘‘respectfully request’’ that its customers no longer carry firearms inside its stores, after facing mounting pressure from gun control activists who criticized the chain in a national debate about open-carry laws.
The change will apply to both concealed and unconcealed guns in all of the Minneapolis-based retailer’s nearly 1,800 US stores, the company confirmed.
‘‘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,’’ John Mulligan, the company’s interim chief executive, said in a memo posted on Target’s website.
Target is the latest large retailer to be drawn into the gun control debate. Last September, Starbucks asked its patrons to leave their guns at home, and Chipotle, Jack in the Box, Sonic Drive-In, and Chili’s Grill & Bar all made similar requests in May. Facebook and Instagram also recently revealed plans to tighten their policies governing images and posts selling firearms.
Target found itself drawn into the fray this spring when a Texas gun rights group posted photos online of some of its members openly carrying long guns in Target stores. The photos prompted rebuke from the National Rifle Association’s lobbying arm, which called the demonstrations ‘‘downright weird’’ in a statement on its website. A few days later, NRA’s top lobbyist backtracked on that criticism, saying it had come from an unauthorized staffer.
The photos spurred a monthlong counter-campaign from the gun-control group Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, which took to social media and launched petitions to urge Target to prohibit customers from carrying guns in its stores.
The group has attributed other retailers’ similar moves to its previous campaigns.
Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action, said in an interview that she was ‘‘elated’’ by Target’s decision and said she hopes the changes will spur lawmakers to act on gun control legislation.
‘‘We hope that this win with Target signals our complete dissatisfaction with Congress’s inaction on this issue and the fact that moms really are revved up on this issue — and they will see that in the [November midterm elections],’’ Watts said.
Watts said her group has had several phone conversations with members of Target’s senior management team in recent weeks about the issue, though she had not heard from the company for about two weeks before Wednesday’s announcement.
Watts said that two large companies — a retailer and a restaurant — have recently reached out to her group about taking a stance on the issue, saying they wanted to avoid being the target of one of the group’s public relations campaigns.
Gun rights groups were disappointed by Target’s announcement.
John Pierce, co-founder of OpenCarry.org, said he would encourage gun owners to comply with Target’s request.
Many gun owners will either stop shopping at Target or continue carrying their weapons in a concealed fashion in the company’s stores, he said.