WASHINGTON/NEW YORK • Two of the United States' leading gun sellers, Walmart and Dick's Sporting Goods, took steps to limit their sales of firearms, thrusting themselves into the middle of the polarising national debate over gun control.
Walmart, the biggest gun seller, announced on Wednesday that it would not sell guns to anyone under 21 years of age. It added that it would no longer sell items resembling assault-style rifles, including toys and air guns.
Dick's also said it was immediately ending sales of all assault-style rifles in its stores. It added that it would no longer sell high-capacity magazines and would require any gun buyer to be at least 21, regardless of local laws.
Under federal law, a person must be at least 21 to buy a handgun from a firearms dealer. But 18-year-olds can buy semi-automatic rifles and other firearms.
The announcements, made two weeks after 17 students and staff members were killed in the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, were among the most significant actions taken on guns by corporate America. Both retailers said their decisions were a response to the shooting.
Walmart and Dick's acted after a number of major companies moved last week to dissociate themselves from the National Rifle Association.
Hertz car rental, MetLife insurance and Delta Air Lines, among others, publicly ended their relationships with the organisation.
In a news release late on Wednesday, Walmart noted that in 2015 it discontinued the sale of high-powered rifles, including AR-15-style weapons, in its stores in the US.
But at the time, Walmart sidestepped any controversy involving gun politics, attributing its decision to lower customer demand for the military-style rifles.
This time, Walmart directly linked its action to the shooting in Florida, saying: "In light of recent events, we've taken an opportunity to review our policy on firearm sales."
Walmart sells guns in roughly half of its nearly 4,000 supercentres but the sheer scale of its customer base gives its decision significant heft. Every week, more than 150 million people shop at Walmarts around the country.
Dick's decision was announced by Mr Edward Stack, 63, the chief executive whose father founded the store in 1948. Mr Stack made clear that he was steering his company directly into the storm over gun reform.
"When we saw what happened in Parkland, we were so disturbed and upset," Mr Stack said in an interview. "We love these kids and their rallying cry, 'Enough is enough.' It got to us."
He added: "We're going to take a stand and step up and tell people our view and, hopefully, bring people along into the conversation."