BUSINESS
01/19/2013 10:38 am ET Updated Jan 19, 2013

Walmart Assault Weapons Protest Gains Momentum As Hundreds Of Thousands Demand Action

This week, thousands across the United States put pressure on retail giant Walmart to stop selling assault weapons and ammunition.

According to an earlier report by The Huffington Post, Walmart is facing "increased criticism for continuing to sell assault weapons" in the wake of the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., last month.

On Jan. 15, dozens of activists and gun violence survivors gathered for a rally at a Walmart store in Danbury, Conn., and delivered four petitions. With a total of more than 300,000 signatures, the petitions called for the world's largest retailer to stop selling and advertising assault weapons in stores.

"Walmart is making it easy and appealing to purchase an assault weapon. Assault weapons cause mass murder and should be left for law enforcement and military. Civilians do not need to have any assault weapons in their homes," writes one Change.org petition. "Advertising is something that creates wants and needs. To create a want for such a weapon only promotes violence."

More than 113,000 people have signed the Change.org petition so far.

According to a Friday news release, thousands more have stepped forward in the past few days to demand that Walmart pull assault weapons and ammunition from its shelves.

"Since the petition delivery on Tuesday, more then [sic] 10,000 people have taken to Walmart’s Facebook page to register their voices and urge Walmart executives to honor their 2004 pledge and stop selling assault weapons and ammunition," the release said. "Additionally, organizers from SumofUs.org, MomsRising and Courage Campaign report that more than 2,500 Walmart customers have placed calls to Walmart corporate headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas urging the company to stop selling assault weapons in all of their stores. More calls are expected today and throughout the weekend."

In an earlier statement printed by Reuters, a Walmart spokesman said that the company has been "very purposeful about striking the right balance between serving... customers that are hunters and sportsmen and ensuring that [the retailer sells] firearms in the most responsible manner possible." He added that assault weapons are sold only at "locations with a high concentration of hunters and sportsmen."

After the Sandy Hook tragedy, Walmart reportedly pulled the Bushmaster Patrolman's Carbine M4A3 Rifle from its website. The Bushmaster rifle, a military-style assault weapon, was one of the guns used by the Newtown school shooter.

But Walmart is said to sell "more firearms and ammunition than any national competitor," and the retailer has continued to stock its shelves with other assault weapons.

A representative for Walmart declined to comment to HuffPost.

The National Rifle Association (NRA), the country's largest gun rights group, has long been a vocal opponent of most gun control measures, including a ban on assault weapons. In December, the NRA responded to the Sandy Hook tragedy by suggesting that all schools in the U.S. should have armed guards. "The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun," said NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre during the group's post-Sandy Hook press conference.

Reactions to the NRA's position have been mixed. Though many were critical of the gun lobby's response, the group has reportedly welcomed more than 250,000 new members since the Newtown shooting.

"[Walmart should] stand up to the NRA and listen to their customers and stop selling these guns," Kaytee Riek, campaign manager at SumofUs, which organized one of the four petitions delivered to Walmart, told The Huffington Post earlier this week.

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