Gun groups reacted with disappointment and disgust this week after Dick’s Sporting Goods announced new policies banning firearm sales to customers under 21 and discontinuing its inventory of assault-style rifles.
Dick’s Chief Executive Officer Edward Stack made the declaration Wednesday during an interview with ABC’s Good Morning America. The retailer will drop high capacity magazines and bump stocks, too, according to a statement released later the same day.
“We support and respect the Second Amendment, and we recognize and appreciate that the vast majority of gun owners in this country are responsible, law-abiding citizens,” Stack said. “But we have to help solve the problem that’s in front of us. Gun violence is an epidemic that’s taking the lives of too many people, including the brightest hope for the future of America – our kids.”
The policy changes echo what Stack said Congress should do to prevent another school shooting like the Valentine’s Day rampage at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida that killed 17 and wounded 16 others.
“Some will say these steps can’t guarantee tragedies like Parkland will never happen again,” he said. “They may be correct – but if common sense reform is enacted and even one life is saved, it will have been worth it.”
The gun industry’s largest trade association described the retailer’s move as disappointing, criticizing Dick’s for punishing the very same law-abiding gun owners they purport to serve.
“We respect the right of all companies to make the decisions they believe are appropriate for their business,” said the National Shooting Sports Foundation in a Facebook post Wednesday. “Nonetheless, we are disappointed … We note that the Dick’s Sporting Goods announcement acknowledges the vast majority of gun owners are responsible and law-abiding. Indeed, they are and should not be penalized for the actions of criminals.”
The NSSF instead pushed for Congress to strengthen the federal background check system through the Fix NICS Act. The proposal incentivizes states and federal agencies to upload disqualifying records into the criminal databases feeding the National Instant Criminal Background Check System in an effort to prevent guns from falling into the wrong hands.
“Members of our industry believe that unauthorized individuals should never have access to any firearm, of any kind, at any time,” the foundation said. “On behalf of our industry, NSSF supports effective solutions to achieve that goal, which is shared by all Americans.”
The Firearms Policy Coalition, a California-based constitutional rights advocacy group, offered harsher words to the retailer in a statement Wednesday.
“Dick’s Sporting Goods is really living up to its name,” said FPC Grassroots Director Richard Thomson. “Gun owners across the United States are watching Dick’s choke on gun control, and we’re disgusted.”
Thomson encouraged gun owners to take their business elsewhere rather than patronize “turncoats and traitors.” The coalition even created a “Take Action” web form for gun owners to express their frustration over Stack’s decision and pledge to boycott Dick’s Sporting Goods and its sister company, Field and Stream.
“At this point, it’s crystal clear that Dick’s and its billionaire trust fund baby CEO Ed Stack support age-based discrimination and gun bans,” Thomson said. “Law-abiding American gun owners and outdoors enthusiasts need to hit them in the pocketbook. Let’s show them that we will not shop for any kind of product where discrimination and bigotry are promoted.”
Gun control groups, however, praised the retailer for implementing the policy changes. Walmart announced this week similar changes at its stores nationwide.
“The announcements from Walmart and Dick’s Sporting Goods today reflect the values of the American public, who are united in a call for common sense on guns,” said John Feinblatt, executive director of Everytown for Gun Safety. “This is a clear signal to businesses across the country that it’s safe to do what’s right. Americans will stand with businesses that stand for our safety.”
Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, added the corporate policy wins signify the tide of public opinion has shifted in favor of gun safety.
“It should also be a call to action for Congress: there’s simply no reason for lawmakers not to immediately pass comprehensive gun safety legislation,” she said. “Just as companies are realizing that cozying up to the gun lobby is bad business, lawmakers should see the writing on the wall: America is rejecting the NRA lobbyists’ dangerous agenda.”
Shares for Dick’s Sporting Goods increased Wednesday after analysts dubbed the policy changes “strategic” and more meaningful than other corporate actions to sever ties with the National Rifle Association. More than a dozen companies pulled out of partnerships with the association over the last two weeks, depriving its 5 million members of corporate discounts.
The NRA hasn’t commented publicly on the retailer’s decision, however, the group opposes implementing age restrictions on rifle sales.