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KMART pulling ammunition from shelves in wake of protests from gun-control advocates

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DETROIT (AP) _ At Kmart stores across the country, shoppers perusing the aisles for diapers, garden hoses and microwave popcorn can also find ammunition designed for everything from pellet guns to handguns.

But some of those shelves soon will be empty as Kmart phases out the sale of handgun ammunition over the next three months.

Company officials made the announcement Thursday following meetings that included company executives, a prominent gun-control advocate and victims of the 1999 Columbine High School shooting.

Kmart stores have not carried handguns since the 1970s, but still sell hunting rifles and other long guns. The Troy, Mich.-based company has been under pressure from gun control advocates to stop selling firearms for some time.

In November 1999, talk show host and gun control activist Rosie O'Donnell resigned as the company's celebrity spokeswoman in light of her strong gun-control views.

And in December 1999 the company withdrew an application with the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms for a license to sell rifles and shotguns for a new store in New York after protests by an anti-gun group.

However, company spokeswoman Julie Fracker said the sale of firearms and ammunition had been under review as part of the merchandising strategy of the company's new executive team for some time.

``Obviously we consider ourselves a socially conscious business, but this was a business decision made in the best interests of the company,'' she said.

Three Columbine survivors and filmmaker Michael Moore, who is best known for a 1989 documentary that assailed General Motors Corp.'s actions in closing a plant in his hometown of Flint, met with Kmart executives in Troy for four hours Wednesday. They requested that the ammunition be removed from shelves.

Moore said he is happy with Kmart's decision.

``I'm totally, totally stunned by the response from Kmart today,'' he said.

Fracker said the phasing out of ammunition began Thursday. The end of ammunition sales at the chain's more than 2,000 stores will depend on when the stores' current ammunition stock runs out.

Similar changes are not in the works at Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the nation's No. 1 retailer.

The National Rifle Association did not return messages left Thursday seeking comment.

A spokeswoman for Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the nation's No. 1 retailer, said there is no plan to stop selling handgun ammunition.

Wal-Mart stores, except for those in Alaska, do not sell handguns but do carry hunting rifles and related accessories.
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