(Reuters) - Wal-Mart Stores Inc <WMT.N>, the top seller of guns and ammunition in the United States, said on Wednesday it will stop carrying the AR-15 and other semi-automatic rifles at its stores due to sluggish demand.
A spokesman for the world's largest retailer said the decision was based solely on demand and was not related to recent high-profile incidents involving the rifles, including the school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut in 2012.
The announcement came on the same day two television journalists were shot and killed in Virginia in an incident that is likely to further stoke a growing debate about gun violence in the U.S.
"This is done solely on what customer demand was," said company spokesman Kory Lundberg, confirming a previous report on the decision by business news website Quartz. "We are instead focusing on hunting and sportsman firearms."
Lundberg said Wal-Mart will stop selling a class of rifle called the modern sports rifle (MSR), which includes the semi-automatic AR-15. He said that class of rifle was sold in fewer than a third of its roughly 4,500 U.S. stores.
The move comes as part of a regular "reset" of its sporting goods department for the fall season, Lundberg said.
(Reporting by Nathan Layne; Editing by Chris Reese and Bill Rigby)