It might be out of respect for the young victims, whose funerals began Monday morning. It might be because there is suddenly a very big conversation about guns in this country — from President Obama to Congress, from the House to the Senate, from Americans confused and frustrated alike. It might not even be the first time. But this is curious indeed: Just as a story from The Nation was going live Monday afternoon — about how Walmart is selling in large numbers the same .223-calibre Bushmaster AR-15 assault rifle that Adam Lanza used to kill 20 first graders and six adults Friday morning in Newtown, Connecticut — the big-box chain pulled the product from its website. The story's author, George Zornick, immediately reported on the development:
Zornick's story is a length report on the role Walmart plays in supplying average Americans with guns and just how easy it is to get an AR-15, which is the civilian version of the assault rifle used by American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan that Connecticut police and medical examiners say Lanza used to shoot his victims between three and 11 times each. "Although it is not yet clear where the Bushmaster AR-15 used by Lanza (and registered to his mother) was purchased, the model is familiar to many Walmart shoppers," Zornick writes. "It’s on sale at about 1,700 Walmart stores nationwide, though the retail chain pulled the weapon from its website early this afternoon." You can still view the pulled page in a Google cache, and an accompanying sidebar features more assault rifles still listed on Walmart's site.
Obviously no company wants a negative association with Newtown right now — especially that gun. And while Walmart has yet to offer any official response to The Nation or the Newtown shootings in general, they've been part of the ongoing debate since Friday about just how easy it is to obtain guns in this country: some 40 percent of gun sales still aren't subject to the most stringent background checks, and Walmart is the biggest gun-seller in America. The chain did pull a computer game about bullying in the wake of Columbine, but now the country, nudged by President Obama and with differing calls from the left and right, may be headed for a debate that unavoidable, no matter how awkward the associations therein.
Alas, while Walmart may have rid itself of Lanza's gun, the following assault rifles currently show up for your perusal on its website when you search for that Bushmaster AR-15: