Dick's Sporting Goods, in response to the Newtown, Conn., massacre, announced this morning that it has suspended sales of a popular form of modern hunting rifle in its stores nationally.

The sports retail chain, which has 15 stores in the Philadelphia region, said it has halted sales of the "modern sporting rifle," a semi-automatic weapon which is used primarly for hunting and target shooting. Dick's also removed all firearms from its store nearest the school where 20 children and six adults were gunned down Friday morning.

"We are extremely saddened by the unspeakable tragedy that occurred last week in Newtown and our hearts go out to the victims and their families, and to the entire community," the Pittsburgh-based company said in a statement on its corporate website this morning. "Out of respect for the victims and their families, during this time of national mourning we have removed all guns from sale and from display in our store nearest to Newtown and suspended the sale of modern sporting rifles in all of our stores chainwide."

Funerals for victims of the second deadliest school shooting in history began yesterday and will continue throughout the week. Shotguns and other types of rifles remain available at the company's regional stores.

The term "modern sports rifle" is used for semi-automatic firearms based on an AR-15-platform, according to the National Shooting Sports Foundation on its website, which says that it is among the most popular rifles sold in America. The NSSF said in describing the rifle that the "AR-15-style rifles are NOT 'assault weapons' or 'assault rifles.' An assault rifle is fully automatic - a machine gun."

Retail giant Wal-Mart also made changes to its website today to remove online references to Bushmaster firearms. The Bushmaster AR-15 model was used by Adam Lanza in the Newtown killings. But the retail giant said this afternoon it would not make changes to what it sells in some of its stores.

"We remain dedicated to the safe and responsible sale of firearms in areas of the country where they are sold," Wal-Mart spokeswoman Kory Lundberg said in an email. "Part of our commitment to gun safety is our involvement in the 'Mayors Against Illegal Guns' coalition. We don't sell guns online and we have made no change to the assortment of guns we sell in our stores."

Building pressure in the wake of the killings last week also led private equity firm Cerberus to put the maker of Bushmaster firearms up for sale today. Cerberus said today it would begin the process of selling Freedom Group.

Contact Brian X. McCrone at bmccrone@philly.com