In the wake of the horrific tragedy at Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, consumer groups are beginning to exert pressure on certain retailers to change their firearms sales policies. Several major national retailers are responding.
Leading that effort is the nation’s largest sporting goods retailer, Dick’s, which recently announced plans to stop selling “assault-style” rifles. In addition to plans to no longer sell the rifles, Dick’s announced that it would be raising the minimum age for all gun sales to at least 21. And the company will also stop selling high-capacity magazines and certain accessories commonly purchased with certain semi-automatic rifles.
Any decision related to such a polarizing issue is going to have consumer PR consequences, and Dick’s says the company expects that and is prepared. Speaking on cable news, CEO Edward Stack explained he understood the impact this could have on his company’s business:
“The hunt business is an important part of the business, no doubt about it. And we know there will be some backlash… As we sat and talked about it with our management team, it was — to a person — that this is what we need to do… These kids talk about enough is enough. We concluded if these kids are brave enough to organize and do what they’re doing, we should be brave enough to take this stand.”
Based on those comments, it’s pretty clear which side of the issue Stack and his management team land on. The question, now, is what kind of impact will this have on the company’s sales. While Dick’s does do a lot of sales in camping and hunting, the store isn’t dependent on those sales as much as, say, Field and Stream stores, which are owned by Dick’s, may be.
Unlike many other bigger department stores, Dick’s is opening, rather than closing, locations. Perhaps in anticipation of the juxtaposition of planned openings and making what will be viewed as a political statement by many, Stack released a letter to the media offering an expanded view of his company’s position on guns and gun sales in America:
“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.”
A spokesman for the National Shooting Sports Foundation told CNN he was “disappointed” in Dick’s decision: “We respect the right of all companies to make the decisions they believe are appropriate for their business… we are disappointed by the decision of Dick’s Sporting Goods to stop selling modern sporting rifles … to cease sales of certain magazines and to raise the purchase age to 21 for firearms at all its stores.”
So, the two opposing narratives are now out in the media. It will be interesting to see where this goes next, and if any other major retailers will weigh in.
About the Author: Ronn Torossian is CEO of 5WPR.