Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the largest seller of guns and ammunition in the US, will stop selling the AR-15 and other semi-automatic rifles because of sluggish demand.
The company will focus on “hunting and sportsman firearms”, Reuters reports, citing a company announcement.
Wal-Mart said the decision was unrelated to high-profile incidents involving the rifles, including the killing of 26 students and adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut in 2012.
“This is done solely on what customer demand was,” said company spokesman Kory Lundberg.
“We are instead focusing on hunting and sportsman firearms.”
Lundberg said Wal-Mart would stop selling a class of rifle called the modern sporting rifle, which includes the semi-automatic AR-15.
That class of rifle is sold in fewer than a third of its roughly 4,500 US stores, he said.
The announcement came on the same day two television journalists were shot and killed in Virginia in an incident that is likely to stoke the debate about gun ownership in the United States.
Retail consultant Burt Flicking saw the move as part of a shift at Wal-Mart under chief executive Doug McMillon to pay closer attention to public opinion on social issues, noting the company had raised wages for entry-level staff earlier this year.
He was skeptical that it had been driven solely by demand, given generally solid sales of guns and ammunition in the US.
“It shows that the Wal-Mart of this decade is quite different from the prior four decades,” Flickinger said.
Wal-Mart recently came under pressure from New York City’s Trinity Church, an investor pushing for tighter oversight of sales of guns with high-capacity magazines.
In April a federal court ruled in Wal-Mart’s favor and vacated an injunction that would have required a vote on the issue at its annual shareholders’ meeting in June.
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