SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Walmart will pay half a million dollars to settle allegations from California's Department of Justice that it was selling brass knuckles on its website, state Attorney General Rob Bonta said Tuesday.
Brass knuckles are classified as deadly and illegal weapons in a number of states, including California, which punishes their sale with up to a year in prison.
The investigation into the retail giant first started in 2018, when the Merced County district attorney found Walmart was selling and allowing third-party vendors to sell brass knuckles on its website, officials said at a news conference. The Department of Justice conducted the yearslong investigation and negotiation in partnership with the district attorney’s offices of Merced, Ventura, and Yolo Counties.
Brass knuckles, typically made of metal or hard plastic, could be used to break bones, cut people or cause even fatal injuries, Bonta said, calling the settlement “a tremendous win” for consumers in California.
“We’re making it clear that we won’t sit idly by while a company, no matter how large ... allows Californians to be armed with illegal weapons," Bonta said. “This is a critical push back on an e-commerce giant that stands to have an important impact on the industry.”
Walmart said in a statement that it didn't violate any California laws and admits “no liability of wrongdoing,” but settled because “we believe this agreement is in the best interest of all parties.”
As part of the settlement, Walmart will pay the Department of Justice and district attorneys' offices $125,000 each in civil penalties. The nation’s largest retailer will also be required to stop selling and allowing any sales of brass knuckles on its website.
Investigators found roughly 250 products that could be classified as brass knuckles on Walmart's website, 60% of which were offered directly by the retailer and 40% of which were available from third-party sellers, authorities said.
The settlement also requires Walmart to notify customers who have purchased brass knuckles that the weapon is illegal.
Authorities said they are investigating others for illegal weapons sales but didn't name the alleged offenders.
“While Walmart was particularly cooperative in this case and has done their best to remove the illegal weapons from their websites, there are others who have not done so, and they need to know we’re coming for them,” Ventura County Deputy District Attorney Karen Wold said Tuesday.
Walmart is a major seller of weapons in the United States, but has taken steps to curb the sale of firearms and ammunition since 2015.
The giant retailer stopped selling ammunition for semi-automatic rifles and handguns after 23 people were killed at one of its stores in El Paso, Texas, in 2019. The company stopped selling semi-automatic weapons such as the AR-15 style rifle in 2015 and raised the minimum age to buy firearms from 18 to 21 in 2018.