Walmart confirmed Wednesday that it plans to stop selling the sort of military-style weapons used in deadly shootings in Aurora, Colorado, and Newtown, Connecticut, among other places in recent years.
Gun control advocates argue that limiting the availability of such weapons — specifically by removing them from the world’s largest brick-and-mortar retailer — will make them less likely to fall into the hands of would-be mass murderers. Walmart’s decision to pull the guns from its shelves, which it claims is not motivated by political pressure, should be cheered.
But by confirming that AR-15s and other, similar guns will soon disappear from the one-third of Walmart stores where they have been available, Walmart may spark a surge of sales that would only increase the number of people who possess these weapons.
Basically, any time widespread accessibility to these rifles appears to be in jeopardy, sales skyrocket. A gun-buying frenzy kicked off after the 2o12 massacre in Newtown, in which a gunman murdered 20 schoolchildren and six adults with an AR-15. The same thing happened after the shooting at Columbine High School in 1999. It happened after then-Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) was shot in a rampage near Tucson in 2011. And it happened after a gunman killed 12 people in a movie theater in Aurora in 2012, The Christian Science Monitor reported at the time.
“When people think they won’t be able to buy guns, they buy guns,” an unnamed firearms industry analyst told CNBC in 2012.
So it was a bit disconcerting this week that when Walmart first publicly confirmed its plans to start paring down its firearm offerings, it did so to Bearing Arms, a vehemently pro-gun blog that bills itself as saving “liberty and lives.”
It’s possible that the article’s author, Bob Owens, was simply the first to ask the retailer about its plans, and therefore the first to get the news. But the message that AR-15s and similar guns are in danger of becoming harder to find will no doubt resonate especially strongly with the readers of such a site.
Walmart did not immediately respond to a question about why it first gave the news to Breaking Arms. Spokesman Kory Lundberg had earlier told The Huffington Post that the weapons will be available for another few weeks.
Even after the retailer stops carrying these particular weapons, though, it will still be the biggest seller of guns in the country.