Walmart says it will stop selling AR-15s and other sporting rifles, a spokesman confirmed to The Huffington Post on Wednesday.
The chain won't stock modern sports rifles such as the AR-15, nor semi-automatic shotguns. The price of remaining inventory will be reduced, Walmart rep Kory Lundberg told HuffPost. BearingArms.com first reported the change Tuesday.
The company will continue to sell shotguns and other “hunting weapons,” Lundberg said. "We're focusing on firearms more associated with hunters and sportsmen."
Though the retail giant said the move was simply a reflection of changing customer tastes, it comes at a time when Walmart has been moving to a kinder, gentler image under new CEO Doug McMillon. The chain is under pressure as the minimum wage movement gains steam and the economy picks up.
"He [McMillon] is transforming Walmart in so many positive ways and broadening its appeal for customers and employees," Bill George, the former Medtronic CEO who writes often about leadership, wrote in an email to The Huffington Post.
The news came just hours after a shooting in Virginia, where two TV news reporters were gunned down and killed and a third woman wounded. That shooter reportedly used a handgun.
Emphasizing that Walmart only sells firearms at one-third of its stores, Lundberg said the change was entirely due to shifting customer tastes.
The company had been quietly phasing out AR-15s for a while. "We made the decision earlier this spring," Lundberg said. They should be totally gone in the next couple of weeks.
The retailer's been heavily criticized for selling these weapons in the past. It received some particularly harsh press in the aftermath of the Newtown, Connecticut, school shooting in 2012.
When asked if Walmart would ever simply stop selling guns, Lundberg said: "We have no plans at this time."
The chain's decision not to stock certain firearms was welcomed by New York’s historic Trinity Church, which is battling the retailer in court over gun sales. “Trinity Church is very pleased to hear that Walmart will no longer sell the kinds of weapons that have caused such devastation and loss in communities across our country,” Rev. Dr. William Lupfer, the church's rector, said in a statement.
Trinity filed suit against Walmart in 2014, demanding its shareholders vote on a proposal that would bring assault weapons under the oversight of the company’s board. While a court initially ruled in Trinity’s favor, the ruling was later overturned. Now Trinity is raising the possibility of a settlement.
“We continue to believe that corporate boards have the responsibility to oversee the creation of policies that will guide decision making on marketing and other issues that could have momentous impact on the safety and well-being of society and to shareholder value,” Lupfer said in a statement emailed to HuffPost. “We will continue to engage constructively with companies and fellow investors to this end, and we will be discussing with Walmart's counsel whether there is a basis on which we can agree with them to drop our suit.”
Earlier this year Walmart announced pay raises. On Wednesday, McMillon said the company would donate $25 million to organizations specializing in disaster relief in honor of the 10-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. He posted the news on his Instagram feed.
This post has been updated with new information throughout.