Photo by Mike Mozart/Flickr.


Walmart, the top peddler of guns in the U.S., has decided to stop selling modern sporting rifles (MSRs) and other semi-automatic weapons in fall 2015.

For a country plagued by the world's highest gun violence rate, maybe you're imagining much of the public response looking a little like this:

Sans the gunshots, obvi. GIF from "Up."

But hold your "hoorays" for a moment.

The news may have come and gone relatively unnoticed if it hadn't been reported just one day before a fatal shooting in Roanoke, Virginia.

Roanoke community members participate in a vigil in honor of the two WDBJ-TV journalists gunned down by their former colleague. Photo by Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images.

The dark event, like so many before it, prompted another frantic dig for any sign of hope that gun violence won't last forever, and the Walmart announcement became, to some, a pinhole of light at the end of the tunnel. Tragic happenstance may have drawn public attention to Walmart, but the move hasn't garnered much fanfare.

It's mostly been met by listless debate or weak nods of approval. Although, New York's Trinity Church, a Walmart shareholder that has been pressuring the company to tighten their oversight of gun sales, is "very pleased":

"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. William Lupfer

Still, while Walmart may no longer sell assault rifles, the company is only replacing the inventory with more products from approved categories, including shotguns, single-shot rifles, and other hunting weapons, all of which have been used in mass shootings.

And we should note that the majority of weapons used in mass shootings in the U.S. were legally obtained — including the handgun used in Roanoke.

Walmart says the decision was about business, not politics.

Photo by Mike Mozart/Flickr.

At least, that's what 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."

But skeptics of the company's stated motives point out that MSRs are among the most popular for civilian gun buyers.

Whether the decision was about business or politics is irrelevant.

Walmart is one of the world's most profitable businesses. They can afford some lost sales on guns. Why they chose to do it and whether it signals a larger shift in the company's stance on guns is unknown.

The more important question to ask is: How many more lives can we afford to lose to gun violence before we come together to end it?

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