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Target aims to stop customers from carrying guns

The company, which changed its firearms policy on Wednesday, was the seventh target of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.
A Target store is seen on December 19, 2013 in Miami, Florida.
A Target store is seen on December 19, 2013 in Miami, Florida.

Another major American business chain bites the ... gunpowder.

Target management on Wednesday changed its firearms policy to prevent armed customers from entering the retail store's locations. 

Beginning Wednesday, employees will "respectfully request that guests not bring firearms to Target – even in communities where it is permitted by law," John Mulligan, interim chief executive officer of Target, said in a statement.

"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," he added.

Laws regarding the open carry of handguns vary by state; local governments can enact regulations banning the action in a specific area within its jurisdiction, as long as management posts signs about the regulations.

The gun-reform group Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America last month created a national campaign to urge the chain to prohibit patrons from openly carrying weapons while shopping, msnbc previously reported. Beginning with Starbucks last fall, members have gained similar victories with Sonic Drive-In, Brinker International (parent company of Chili’s Grill & Bar), Chipotle, Starbucks, Jack in the Box, Facebook, and Instagram.

Members of the group, which is backed by former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, said gun owners armed with semiautomatic rifles walked into Target locations in Alabama, North Carolina, Ohio, Texas, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin.

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

Related: When Congress won't act on gun control, individual groups will

Nearly 400,000 Americans signed the national petition to encourage the change in Target's rules.

Businesses that already banned firearms include Costco, Toys “R” Us, Babies “R” Us, Whole Foods Market, and IKEA.

Moms Demand Action earlier this week started visiting state houses across the country to deliver 2.5 million postcards to elected officials and demand they take political action on the gun issue. Richard Martinez, the father of one of the six victims in the University of California Santa Barbara shooting in May, inspired the campaign, calling for "not one more" shooting death.