These Companies Are Changing Their Policies To Stop Gun Violence

The largest sporting goods retailer in the nation wrote in an open letter that it will no longer sell AR-15s or other assault weapons in its stores.

A man inspects an AR-15 at a gun store.

UPDATE: L.L. Bean has joined Walmart, Kroger, and Dick's Sporting Good's in changing their policies to help bring an end to gun violence in the United States. As such, the Maine-based retailer is the fourth major company to announce that it will not allow young customers to purchase firearms.

After the company was questioned on Twitter whether it was going to take action to help curb gun violence, the retailer replied saying that it would change its gun selling policies. That means that nobody under the age of 21 is now able to purchase a firearm at its main Freeport, Maine, location, the only store of the L.L. Bean chain to have a license to sell guns.

While it’s already illegal for stores to sell handguns to individuals under the age of 21, stores can sell rifles to anybody who’s 18 or older.

To keep young people who may use the assault-style weapons to shoot at others from purchasing these guns at their stores, L.L. Bean and the other stores are taking their own steps.

What’s still left unaddressed, however, is how the sales of weapons to anyone in the black market can be stopped.

It appears that two of the nation's biggest retailers, Walmart and Kroger, are following Dick's Sporting Good's lead and upping the age limit for gun purchases to 21. 

The companies each released statements detailing their respective decisions to make the change in the wake of last month's Parkland, Florida, high school shooting.

In addition to raising its age restriction, Walmart also stated that it will remove items resembling assault-style rifles, such as toys, from its website.

Just like Dick's Sporting Good's, Walmart and Kroger are now under fire from right-wing gun enthusiasts for choosing to prioritize the safety of our children and innocent Americans. 

There is definitely a pattern forming of gun sellers doing what politicians won't, which is a good thing. However, it also appears that pretty soon, all the gun nuts calling for boycotts won't have anywhere left to shop — what a shame. 

UPDATE: While many people have praised Dick’s Sporting Goods for its decision to stop selling assault rifles in its stores — along with its calls for Congress to ban assault weapons outright — some of the responses to the company’s choices have been more hostile, including threats to boycott the store.

Conservative voices rang out on social media, letting the retail giant know that it had lost their business, and urging others to follow suit.

Far-right gun proponents hoping for Dick’s to change its mind over the matter, however, shouldn’t hold their collective breaths. The company made a similar announcement, suspending sales of assault rifles in 2012, following the school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, but that move was only temporary.

This time, the company said, it won’t reverse course due to backlash from customers. Asked on "Good Morning America" whether they’d reconsider, CEO Ed Stack said, “Never.” 

The reason why this decision may prove to be a permanent one is because Nikolas Cruz, the shooter in the Parkland, Florida, high school massacre that occurred earlier this month, had purchased a separate gun from one of Dick’s Sporting Goods stores. Cruz could have purchased the same AR-15 gun from one of their own locations, Stack explained.

“[I]t came to us that we could have been a part of this story,” he added. “We said, ‘We don’t want to be a part of this any longer.’”

Much of the response on social media has been positive rather than negative, supportive of the retail store’s decision to end assault rifle sales and increase the age of sales for all other guns to 21.

The store even received the support of people who wouldn’t ordinarily shop there.

The decision by Dick’s Sporting Goods to halt sales of deadly weaponry, so commonly used in school and other mass shooting events, is the right one to take. The company may lose business from a few hard-line gun supporters, but in the end, it can take comfort in the fact that it is doing the morally correct thing.

Dick's may also discover that its decision could result in a new customer base from individuals who hadn’t considered the company before. But above all else, it was simply the honorable and ethical choice to make. Hopefully, other stores — and perhaps some lawmakers in Washington — can come to the same conclusions that Dick's Sporting Goods came to this week.

The largest sporting goods retailer in the United States announced on Wednesday that it will no longer sell assault rifles.

CEO of Dick's Sporting Goods Ed Stack announced the decision on "Good Morning America" on ABC. While the company will continue to sell other types of weapons, Stack said it made the decision to end sales of assault rifles after it had learned that Nikolas Cruz, the gunman who killed 17 individuals at a high school in Parkland, Florida, earlier this month, purchased a different gun from a Dick's store.

“We did everything by the book,” Stack explained. “We did everything that the law required, and still he was able to buy a gun. And when we looked at that, we said the systems that are in place across the board just aren't effective enough to keep us from selling a gun like that.”

Stack further elaborated in an open letter to customers why the decision was made.

“We at Dick's Sporting Goods are deeply disturbed and saddened by the tragic events in Parkland. Our thoughts and prayers are with all of the victims and their loved ones,” Stack wrote. “But thoughts and prayers are not enough.”

Stack also alluded to the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where the Parkland shooting occurred, commending them for their political awareness and activism in the days after the attack on their peers.

“We have tremendous respect and admiration for the students organizing and making their voices heard regarding gun violence in schools and elsewhere in our country,” he added in his letter.

"We have heard you," he wrote. "The nation has heard you. 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. But we have to help solve the problem that's in front of us.

The company also plans to require all gun buyers be at least 21 years of age to purchase a weapon. But beyond the issue of its own sales, Dick's Sporting Goods also tweeted out its support for elected officials to ban assault weapons outright.

Other retailers have made similar moves in the past, including Walmart announcing that it would stop stocking its own shelves of assault weapons more than two years ago.

"Our focus in terms of firearms should be hunters and people who shoot sporting clays, and things like that," Walmart CEO Douglas McMillon said in 2015.

But other gun shops are also taking voluntary steps in reaction to the more recent Parkland shooting. Although not legally bound to, a gun shop owner in Washington state recently required all long gun purchases to be made by individuals older than 21.

"I would like to be proactive rather than reactive because the reactive solutions that we come up with don't work," owner Jason Cazes explained.  

These types of moves are monumental, and the actions taken by Dick's and other stores should not be taken lightly. With over 700 stores in 47 states, Dick's reigns a heavy influence in the market of gun sales across the nation.

Other retailers should follow Dick's example. Congress should also follow the retail giant’s moves, and lawmakers who have previously received financial contributions from the gun lobby ought to have a real introspective conversation with themselves about making a moral choice on the issue of guns in America. They owe it to our children, in Parkland and throughout the U.S., to do so in an honest way.

Banner and thumbnail credit: Reuters, Joshua Lott 

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