DANBURY, Conn. (AP) — Gun control activists gathered Tuesday at a Wal-Mart store less than 10 miles from Sandy Hook Elementary School to demand the company stop selling military-style rifles.
About 80 protesters, including three directly affected by recent mass shootings, helped deliver a petition to store officials they said contained that names of almost 300,000 people who want Wal-Mart to stop selling rifles similar to the semi-automatic Bushmaster used in the killing of 20 children and six adults at the Newtown school on Dec. 14. The names were gathered online.
‘‘The interest and the commitment of the American people to this right now is like a tsunami,’’ said Lori Haas, a protester whose daughter Emily was wounded in the April 2007 Virginia Tech shootings. ‘‘I've been doing this for five years and this feels different. I can walk into the halls of Congress now and every door is open to me. The time is now.’’
Pam Simon was working for former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in 2011 when they were both shot at an Arizona constituent event where six people were killed.
She said the sale of products such as Sudafed, which can be used in the manufacture of illegal drugs, is often controlled more closely than weapons.
High-capacity magazines allowed the gunman, Jared Loughner, ‘‘to deliver 30 shots in less than 30 seconds,’’ she said. ‘‘In less than 30 seconds, he was able to kill six people and wound 13 others. He could have killed 30 people in 30 seconds, and it’s not controlled at all.’’
Kory Lundberg, a company spokesman, said Wal-Mart sells the rifles in question at less than one-third of its stores, does not sell high-capacity magazines as an accessory, videotapes all firearms transactions, ensures background checks are completed before selling guns and doesn’t sell firearms online.
‘‘We've been very purposeful in terms of serving our customers, the hunters and sportsman, but also ensuring that we are selling our firearms in the most responsible manner possible,’’ he said.
Lundberg said the company’s policies are always evolving and Wal-Mart officials will continue to be part of the discussions into possible changes in gun laws.
The Danbury Wal-Mart does not sell guns.
‘‘It’s symbolic,’’ said Simon. ‘‘This is a Wal-Mart that’s very close to the most recent and most horrendous tragedy we've had in this nation.’’
Associated press writer Pat Eaton-Robb contributed to this report from Hartford, Conn.