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Walmart says assault weapons ban should be discussed in the wake of mass shootings

As gun reform advocates planned rallies to pressure it to stop selling guns, Walmart said Thursday there should be debate around reviving an assault weapons ban "to determine its effectiveness in keeping weapons made for war out of the hands of mass murderers.''

The nation's largest retailer reported strong financial results in the second quarter, including a 37% jump in U.S. online sales.

But in the wake of a mass shooting at a Walmart store in El Paso, Tx that left 22 people dead and intensified a national conversation about gun violence, Walmart's CEO Doug McMillon addressed the company's gun policies before diving into discussion of Walmart's overall business.

In addition to saying reauthorization of a federal assault weapons ban should be discussed, McMillon wrote in a management commentary that "we’re encouraged that broad support is emerging to strengthen background checks and to remove weapons from those who have been determined to pose an imminent danger.''

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McMillon noted actions Walmart has previously taken around guns and ammunition including stopping sales of military style rifles in 2015, selling handguns only in Alaska, raising the age to buy a weapon to 21, and holding gun buyers to a higher standard than what is required by the federal government.

Now, in the wake of the mass shooting in El Paso, as well as an incident days earlier when two Walmart managers were killed by a gunman at a store in Southaven, Mississippi, McMillon said "we’re also thinking through the broader issues related to gun violence and things we should do to help create safer communities.''

Walmart says that it sells roughly 2% of guns and about 20% of ammunition. Still, some gun reform advocates, noting the retailer's size and influence, believe the retailer can play a larger role in the campaign for national gun reform.

A coalition of organizations including Guns Down America, the American Federation of Teachers, and MoveOn are planning rallies this weekend to compel Walmart to stop selling guns until national ownership standards and laws are tightened.

Those groups are also launching a social media challenge encouraging Americans to deliver letters with those demands to local Walmart store managers.

In the three-month period that ended July 31, Walmart reported strong results, with sales up 2.8% at stores open at least a year, and growth in online transactions fueled in part by the increasing popularity of the online grocery shopping option.

Follow Charisse Jones on Twitter @charissejones

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Walmart says assault weapons ban should be discussed in wake of mass shootings