Walmart announced a new policy on Wednesday that it will no longer sell AR-15s and similar semiautomatic rifles, though it will continue to sell some firearms, such as pump-action shotguns and bolt-action rifles. The nation’s largest retailer and largest seller of firearms has long been a target of gun control organizations.
The decision was made, according to a company spokesperson, due to the lack of “consumer demand.” In June, guns sales were up 11 percent, according to CNN Money, when “the FBI conducted nearly 1.53 million background checks” conducted by dealers with a Federal Firearms License (FFL).
“That’s the highest volume of checks in June since 1999,” CNN Money noted, “when the FBI started keeping track.” Although background checks are conducted for gun purchases from federally licensed dealers, the AR-15, the civilian version of the M16, is the most popular semiautomatic rifle on the market.
Depending on the estimate, Walmart sells firearms between one-third and half of its 4,500 stores in the United States, although the types of firearms now being discontinued from sale may not have been available at these stores. The gun control lobby has targeted Walmart for selling the AR-15 and similar semiautomatic weapons in the past.
In April, for example, Walmart successfully fought off a federal lawsuit filed by Trinity Church in Manhattan that would’ve allowed shareholders to vote on a proposal to prohibit the sale of semiautomatic weapons. Trinity Church, which has a history of leftist activism, is a shareholder of Walmart.
“The proposal asked that Wal-Mart’s Board of Directors oversee the development of policies to guide management’s decision whether or not Wal-Mart should sell products that are 1) especially dangerous to the public, 2) pose a substantial risk to company reputation and 3) would reasonably be considered offensive to the community and family values that Wal-Mart seeks to associate with its brand,” Rev. James Cooper wrote on the church’s blog in December 2014. “For instance, the decision to sell guns equipped with high capacity magazines seems inconsistent to Trinity (and we presume like-minded shareholders), given other merchandising decisions that Wal-Mart has made to protect its reputation and the public.”
CNN commentator Errol Lewis claimed Walmart was being inconsistent when the retailer pulled the Confederate battle flag from stores but not guns. Some leftist activists even cast some blame on Walmart in the wake of the 2012 Newtown shootings, in which a madman used an AR-15 and a handgun to slaughter 28 innocent people, mostly young children.
The criticism is unfounded, of course. Firearms are used overwhelming for defensive purposes, and most guns used in criminally violent acts are obtained through illicit means, such as theft or illegal purchases, or slipping through the background check process, like the Charleston shooter.
Efforts to ban the AR-15, through an assault weapons ban, wouldn’t have much of an effect, despite what gun control advocates may say. A 2013 memo from the Department of Justice’s National Institute of Justice noted that an assault weapons ban is “unlikely to have an effect on gun violence.” What’s more, the gun homicide rate has declined by 49 percent since 1993, according to data from Pew Research Center.
Perhaps it’s an effort to gain some “positive” media in the midst of slumping sales, who knows. But whatever the case may be, Walmart has, essentially, kowtowed to the pressure from the gun control lobby.