NEW YORK - Target is "respectfully" asking its customers to not bring firearms into its stores, even where it is allowed by law.
In a statement posted Wednesday on the retailer's corporate blog, interim CEO John Mulligan said that Target wants a "safe and inviting" atmosphere for its shoppers and employees.
"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 said.
In many states, carrying unconcealed guns in public is legal.
Molly Snyder, a Target spokeswoman, said Target's move is a "request and not a prohibition."
"We don't have any plans for proactive communication to guests beyond what Target leadership shared today," she added.
Target does not sell guns in its stores or on its website.
Target made the announcement as it faced pressure about its policy on the "open carry" of firearms in its stores. A group called Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America gathered nearly 400,000 signatures for a petition asking Target to prohibit shoppers from carrying guns into its stores.
The group has said it is responsible for getting several chains, including Chipotle, Starbucks and Jack in the Box, to make similar moves. It introduced the campaign after gun rights groups carrying loaded rifles frequently gathered in Target stores including Texas, Alabama and North Carolina to demonstrate in support of "open carry" laws.
"Such positive safety changes made by some of our country's leading retailers are proof of the influence of women and mothers," said Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. "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."
Target has four stores in the Charleston area. South Carolina allows residents to carry concealed wepaons if they register for a permit and meet other requirements, such passing a course and background check. Business owners can bar concealed weapons on their properties.
Michelle Chapman of the AP contributed to this report.