In a dramatic rush to distance themselves from the Connecticut school tragedy, two major retailers and an investment firm Tuesday pulled back from gun production or sales as the country heads into heated debate about gun control.
The world's largest retailer Wal-Mart and a major US sporting goods chain, Dick's, suspended some of their gun sales. Cerberus, a large investment firm, decided to put up for sale a gun-making company that it owns to honor the victims of the Connecticut school shooting.
Dick's suspended sales of modern sporting rifles in stores nationwide, and also removed all guns from their store closest to Newtown, the company said on its website.
"We are extremely saddened by the unspeakable tragedy that occurred last week in Newtown .... and our hearts go out to the victims and their families, and to the entire community," Dick's said.
Wal-Mart removed all information from its website about the .223-caliber Bushmaster, the weapon Adam Lanza used in the school shootings that left 26 people including 20 children dead.
However, while the weapon is currently unavailable, it appeared that Wal-Mart intended to continue to sell it and does not intend to change its policies on gun sales, The New York Times reported.
Cerberus, a large private investment firm, decided it would put up for sale Freedom Group, the nation's biggest manufacturer of guns and ammunition including Bushmaster firearms of the type used in Friday's slaying. Operators of some of the country's largest public pension were reported to be considering disinvesting in some firms that produce guns.
"It is not our role to take positions, or attempt to shape or influence the gun control policy debate," Cerberus said in a press release. "There are, however, actions that we as a firm can take. Accordingly, we have determined to immediately engage in a formal process to sell our investment in Freedom Group."
Bushmaster is one of the major manufacturers of the AR-15 type semi-automatic assault rifles, which is the civilian version of the M-16 rifle used by the military. Its use in the Connecticut killings has provoked nationwide outrage.
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Tuesday that President Obama and his Cabinet have begun discussions to find a viable and overarching solution against gun violence.
"It's clear that as a nation, we haven't done enough to address the scourge of gun violence in this country," Carney said. The effort calls "not only for re-examining our gun laws and how well we enforce them but also for engaging mental health professionals, law enforcement officials, educators, parents and communities to find those solutions," Carney said.
The White House supports Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein's proposal to reinstate a ban on assault weapons, Carney said. In addition, two Democratic senators who were rated by the gun lobby as top supporters of gun ownership rights have indicated they will support new gun control efforts.
Such moves will put the White House and others on a collision course with the powerful National Rifle Association (NRA). The NRA was at first visibly absent from the discussion on gun control in the aftermath of the shooting, and only issued a brief first statement Tuesday amid criticism of its silence.
"The National Rifle Association of America is made up of 4 million moms and dads, sons and daughters - and we were shocked, saddened and heartbroken by the news of the horrific and senseless murders in Newtown," the press release on Tuesday said.
The NRA said it wanted to give "time for mourning, prayer and a full investigation of the facts" and pledged to make "meaningful contributions" to the debate.
However, largely unnoticed by much of the US media, the organization devoted much if its online news broadcast, NRA News, on Monday to discussing the tragedy and the call for tougher gun control, Politico reported.
NRA News host Ginny Simone charged that Democrats were quick to politicize the tragedy.
"What do we see coming right out of this tragedy right away?" Simone said. "You've got Mayor Bloomberg, you've got (Senator) Chuck Schumer and (Senator) Dianne Feinstein insisting that we need tougher gun laws. And you look at Connecticut, and they're number five when it comes to the strictest gun laws in the country."
The NRA, which claims that ownership of assault rifles is guaranteed in the US constitution, has set Friday for a news conference, where it will comment more extensively.
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