DICK'S SPORTING Goods has suspended sales of a popular form of modern hunting rifle in the wake of the Newtown massacre.

The sports retail chain, which has 15 stores in the Philadelphia region, said it has halted sales of the "modern sporting rifle," a semiautomatic weapon used primarily for hunting and target shooting. Dick's also removed all firearms from its store nearest the school in Connecticut, 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, adding that it pulled the guns "out of respect for the victims and their families."

The term "modern sports rifle" is used for semiautomatic firearms based on an AR-15-platform, according to the National Shooting Sports Foundation. 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 changed its website Tuesday to remove references to Bushmaster firearms. Adam Lanza used the Bushmaster .223 in the Newtown killings. But the retail giant said it would not change what it sells in some of its stores.