The bubble has finally burst. Wal Mart has announced that they will stop selling AR-15 rifles as they make way for their Fall hunting line thats reflect what the company referred to as “hunting-driven Fall product mix.” The company also confirmed that black gun sales have lagged behind sales of cheaper guns and rejected the idea that the decision was anything other than an inventory correction due to seasonal changes in consumer demand.
Hey – wait a minute! I thought the whole point of buying an AR was because it was a hunting rifle. After all, wasn’t it the NSSF that launched a whole campaign based on the idea that the AR wasn’t a military weapon but was something called a ‘modern sporting rifle?’ And wasn’t the whole point of the modern sporting rifle to peddle the idea that the AR was nothing other than a dumbed-down version of the military gun which could be enjoyed for sport hunting just like any other sporting gun?
The truth is that calling the AR a ‘sporting rifle’ is nothing but a complete and conscious lie. What’s sporting about a gun that can fire 40 rounds of military-grade ammo as quickly as you can pull a trigger 40 times? What’s sporting about a gun whose design allows you to tape two mags together, pull one out, reverse and insert the other and get off another 40 rounds in a few seconds more? And what’s sporting about a rifle which, in the same, semi-auto version, is carried by our military in Afghanistan and Iraq?
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t believe that the issue of gun violence rests on whether civilians can buy or own military-style guns. I own both an AR and an AK, I have hi-cap magazines for both, the mis-use of such weapons accounts for a tiny percentage of the people who are killed and wounded each year by guns. My problem with the promotional crap around the gun is that it’s just another way in which the industry tries to convince current and potential customers that a gun is a necessary and effective way for self-defense against crime. Companies that sell AR rifles, Bushmaster, Smith & Wesson and Stag, go out of their way to blur the line between sporting and tactical, the latter a polite way of saying that guns can be used to kill people as opposed to various four-legged creatures wandering around in the woods.
The funny thing about Wal Mart’s decision to yank black guns is that the company recently won a court case which, had they lost, would have probably meant the end of AR sales after all. The country’s largest retailer was taken to Federal Court by one of its shareholders, New York’s Trinity Church, who wanted the right to let the Board decide whether they were selling any products that could cause harm to the community and therefore negatively impact the value of company stock. Wal Mart had also previously been pressured by Shannon Watts and the Moms to take guns off their shelves.
It’s one thing to get a company like Starbucks to request that customers forego bringing guns into their cafes; after all, when you sell a cup of boiled water with a little taste of coffee beans for three bucks, you’re not usually catering to the gun-owning crowd. But what could be more American, more traditional values, more Main Street than a Wal Mart store? A few years ago I drove Route 2 all the way across North Dakota and Montana and there was a Wal Mart in every third town. You can’t tell me that the average shopper in those stores cared one whit about whether an AR would be used for sporting or anything else.
Here’s the bottom line on Wal Mart’s decision to yank black guns out of their stores. It’s not as if they’ll bring them back once hunting season comes to an end. And as far as I’m concerned, it couldn’t happen to a nicer bunch of guns.