Walmart, the top seller of guns and ammunition in the United States, said on Wednesday it will stop carrying the AR-15 and other semiautomatic rifles at its stores because of sluggish demand.
A spokesman for the world's largest retailer said the decision was based solely on demand and was not related to recent high-profile incidents involving the rifles, including the school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, in 2012.
The announcement came on the same day two television journalists were shot and killed with a handgun in Virginia — an incident that is likely to stoke a growing debate about gun violence in the U.S.
"This is done solely on what customer demand was," said Walmart spokesman Kory Lundberg, confirming a previous report on the decision by business news website Quartz. "We are instead focusing on hunting and sportsman firearms."
Lundberg said Walmart will stop selling modern sports rifles, a class of rifle that includes the semiautomatic AR-15. He said that rifle class was sold in fewer than a third of its roughly 4,500 U.S. stores.
The move comes as part of a regular "reset" of its sporting goods department for the fall season, Lundberg said.