Walmart raises gun purchase age limit to 21, stops online sales of items resembling assault rifles

 Walmart raises gun purchase age limit to 21, stops online sales of items resembling assault rifles
US retail giant Walmart became the second major arms seller in a day to impose restrictions on firearm sales, raising the age limit to 21. It comes after Dick’s Sporting Goods said it is halting the sales of assault-style weapons.

Keeping ahead of the gun control debate and the profit-hurting wave of liberal fury, Walmart, the biggest gun seller in the US, announced the move in a statement on Wednesday. It says the decision was made “in light of recent events,” referring to the shooting in Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School two weeks ago, in which 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, armed with an AR-15 rifle, gunned down 17 students. Walmart said it will strive to implement the new guidelines, which will apply to firearms and ammunition, “as quickly as possible.”

In addition to increasing the age limit, Walmart pledged to pull items that look like assault-style rifles off its website. Non-lethal airsoft guns and even toys will become off-limits in a move that is bound to anger the advocates of the 2nd Amendment.

Walmart emphasized that as a “responsible seller of firearms” it has more rigid background checks in place than those required by law. Whereas normally the sale can proceed if there's no response to the background check request within three days, Walmart requires receiving approval.

In recent years, the retailer has been gradually reducing its customers' access to lethal weapons. In 2006, it stopped selling guns in one-third of its stores across the US, citing a lack of demand. The move sparked concerns from the influential National Rifle Association (NRA) and various hunting groups. In 2015, Walmart made a milestone decision to stop selling semi-automatic rifles entirely, including the infamous AR-15, which has grown into a dark symbol of mass shootings over the years.

The latest move was generally praised on Twitter by proponents of stricter gun controls, who linked the change in policy to the large-scale campaign launched by the students of the Parkland School, which has since spread nationwide.

Walmart follows the example of another major player on the market, one of the US largest sports retailers, Dick’s Sporting Goods. The company’s CEO Ed Stack announced earlier on Wednesday that the company executives were struck by the revelations that Cruz purchased a gun in one of their stores. Although it was not the type of the weapon Cruz used in the rampage, Stack said the company would halt the sale of assault-style weapons at all of its stores and raise the age limit to buy any firearms to 21. The company has not sold rifles since 2012, but other guns falling under the 'assault weapon' category have remained available. The announcement drew a mix of reactions on Twitter, with some commentators calling it a PR stunt and a decision based on poor sales rather than genuine concerns about gun safety. 

READ MORE: Parkland massacre survivor boycotts school until Florida passes gun legislation

The decisions by the companies, which have shown a rare unity in self-imposing restrictions that may negatively impact their sales, comes as public campaigns against the NRA, and what many criticized as US President Donald Trump’s inaction, are gaining pace.

Major gun retailers on par with the NRA have become the main targets in the recent push for firearm control. Walmart and Dick’s Sporting Good, in particular, were on the receiving end of the public fury, with activists calling for their boycott before the recent turn of the events.

While some celebrated the Walmart and Dick’s back-to-back announcements as a victory for the student movement, the idea to raise the age limit to 21, albeit “for certain firearms,” has been backed by Trump. Debunking the rumors that the US President no longer supports the proposal, which he publicly endorsed on Saturday in an interview with Fox News, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders confirmed on Tuesday that Trump is still in favor of raising the age limit.

"The President still supports raising the age limit to the age of 21 for the purchase of certain firearms," she said. 

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