Walmart, the nation’s largest selling of guns and ammo, announced that they would stop the sale of assault rifles, semi-automatic shotguns and other firearms commonly used in mass shootings when their stores restock with fall merchandise. The decision to halt the sale of the weapons was not made in response to Wednesday’s deadly shooting during a live news report in Virginia or public outcry from gun violence groups. Instead, the company will pull the firearms off the shelves for business reasons.
“We previously carried modern sporting rifles in less than a third of our stores,” Walmart spokesperson Kory Lundberg told Forbes. “Our merchandising decisions are driven largely by customer demand. In our everyday course of doing business, we are continually reviewing and adjusting our product assortment to meet our customers’ needs.”
According to Quartz, Lundberg downplayed the stoppage of assault rifle sales, noting, “This happens to get more attention because of what the product is. The decision was completely based on what customers are buying and what they want.” Walmart had already been in the process of phasing out high-powered firearms like AR-15 and modern sporting rifles, and they’ll discontinue stocking modular sniper rifles (MSRs) in the coming weeks. The retail chain had long stopped selling handguns and high-capacity magazines.
While Walmart calls the move a business decision, the country’s biggest firearms dealer pulling their most dangerous weapons comes at a time where the debate over strengthening gun control measures and lessening gun violence continues to divide Americans and political parties.