WMBF reports that the employee, a loss prevention worker, thought the gun was a toy at first. He later noticed that it was loaded with live ammunition.
The employee told officers he had seen a man repeatedly walking around that section of the store, but authorities said they didn't know if that man had put the gun among the toys.
Authorities said the 9-mm handgun had not been reported stolen and had eight bullets inside. Officers said they would review security camera footage to try to determine who left the gun in the store.
Target released surveillance footage to police and issued a statement to WMBF.
"The safety and security of our team members and guests is a top priority for Target," Senior Specialist of Target's Public Relations Department, Evan Lapiska, said in the statement. "We take these matters very seriously and we are partnering with local law enforcement on this incident. Because this matter is under active investigation, we are unable to share additional information."
Earlier this week, Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America launched a petition urging Target to ban the possession of firearms in its store. The petition, which has since garnered more than 10,000 votes, targets gun rights groups that have held open-carry demonstrations at several Targets.
The leader of one such group, Open Carry Texas, which held an open-carry demonstration at a Target this past January, told BuzzFeed gun control activists might have planted the pistol in the South Carolina store.
"I wouldn't doubt if a gun control extremist planted the gun there to further his agenda of blaming gun owners for deaths of children," CJ Grisham, the group's president, said. "Whoever did it is a despicable excuse for a human being and should be charged with attempted murder and fried in in a chair."
Seems like a reasonable guy.
[Image via AP]