National gun sellers face choice

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Posted: Tuesday, December 18, 2012 5:42 pm | Updated: 9:21 pm, Tue Jan 1, 2013.

SARASOTA - Just four days after the murderous rampage in Newtown, Connecticut, two of the nation's largest sellers of assault weapons, Walmart and Dick's Sporting Goods, have been unintentionally placed at the center of the debate over assault rifles.

"They didn't intend for this to become an issue, and now its an issue and you better respond," said public relations expert Ronald Smith.

He says given the high visibility of both these retailers, it's important each take a public step in addressing the issue.

"The secret of public relations in emergencies is to be open, totally open," said Smith.

On Tuesday, Dick's Sporting Goods announced they were immediately pulling all assault rifles from their shelves, and will no longer sell them for the foreseeable future.

Walmart however, did not halt sales of assault rifles, yet it did remove the listing for the Bushmaster rifle, the kind used by the gunman in Connecticut, from its website.

Despite that, Smith believes the nation's biggest retailer should have done more.

"Walmart generally is pretty responsive to the public, and in this case they're slow," said Smith.

In this particular case, Smith believes Dick's may end up having the better outcome in terms of a positive view from the public.

Now he says it's up to the sporting goods giant to let the public know it's taken action.

"It is important for a retailer to let the public know that it has banned or ceased selling, assault weapons," said Smith.

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