Colt's Manufacturing Company, LLC said it will discontinue production of its Colt AR-15 lightweight semi-automatic rifle, which is the present-day civilian version of the ArmaLite AR-15 rifle that became the M-16 in U.S. military service from 1959 to the 1990s.

Colt said it was discontinuing production of the much vilified weapon because the consumer market for rifles has "experienced significant excess manufacturing capacity." It also noted there are too many AR-15 clones on the market to justify making more of this weapon.

Gun control advocates, however, have always opposed sales of the AR-15 and say this weapon has been the overwhelming weapon of choice used in mass shootings in the U.S. since 2012.

An AR-15 was selected by the men that murdered people in six of the 10 deadliest mass shootings in the U.S. It was used to murder people at the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, the 2015 San Bernardino attack, the 2017 Las Vegas shooting, the 2017 Sutherland Springs church shooting, the 2018 Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting and the 2019 El Paso, Texas shooting.

A Colt AR-15 was also used by the man that shot to death 35 people at the infamous Port Arthur massacre in Australia in 1996.

The backlash against the AR-15 as a result of these horrific mass murders led some of America's top retail stores to ban sales of this weapon.

Large U.S. retailers have stopped selling the AR-15 and other semi-automatic rifes in response to America's unending paroxysm of gun violence. Walmart in August said it will stop selling handguns and certain kinds of ammunition that can also be used in assault-style weapons. Dick's Sporting Goods, one of the country's biggest gun retailers, has also publicly said it's considering banning all gun sales.

Despite removing the civilian version of the AR-15 from production, Colt will still manufacture pistols and revolvers for civilian use. It said it will also continue to expand its network of dealers.

Colt claims its business remains healthy and is being kept afloat by its many military and law enforcement contracts. It is one of the major makers of the M4 carbine that is the primary infantry weapon and service rifle of the U.S. Army and the United States Marine Corps.

"Currently, these high-volume contracts are absorbing all of Colt's manufacturing capacity for rifles," said president and CEO Dennis Veilleux.

“At the end of the day, we believe it is good sense to follow consumer demand and to adjust as market dynamics change. Colt has been a stout supporter of the Second Amendment for over 180 years, remains so, and will continue to provide its customers with the finest quality firearms in the world.”

ar-15 An AR-15 rifle is seen on the Wall of Guns at the 142nd annual convention of the National Rifle Association at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston, May 4, 2013. Photo: Karen Bleier/AFP/Getty Images