Walmart Joins Dick's Sporting Goods In Tighter Limits On Gun Sales

Feb 28, 2018
Originally published on February 28, 2018 7:57 pm

Updated at 7:40 p.m. ET

Walmart and Dick's Sporting Goods say they won't sell guns to customers under 21, and both are putting new restrictions on ammunition sales.

Dick's Sporting Goods, one of the largest sports retailers in the U.S., has announced it is immediately ending its sales of military-style semi-automatic rifles and is requiring all customers to be older than 21 to buy a firearm at its stores. Additionally, the company no longer will sell high-capacity magazines.

Walmart, which ended sales of modern sporting rifles such as AR-15s in 2015, has announced that it is raising the minimum age for purchasing firearms and ammunition from 18 to 21. The company notes that it does not sell bump stocks, high-capacity magazines and similar accessories.

Walmart is also removing items from its website "resembling assault-style rifles, including nonlethal airsoft guns and toys" — like the air gun Tamir Rice was playing with when he was shot by a Cleveland police officer who thought the 12-year-old was armed.

Dick's Sporting Goods CEO Ed Stack announced the firm's decision on ABC's Good Morning America on Wednesday, the same day that survivors of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School returned to class. Stack said the 19-year-old gunman allegedly behind that massacre, which claimed 17 lives and wounded many more in Parkland, Fla., had purchased a firearm from the retailer last November.

While that the weapon — a shotgun — was not used in the shooting, the CEO said the revelation deeply affected Stack and his colleagues at Dick's.

"We did everything by the book. We did everything that the law required, and still he was able to buy a gun," Stack said. "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.

"And so we've decided we're not going to sell the assault-type rifles any longer."

The company, which operates more than 715 locations, already had pulled assault-style weapons from Dick's stores after the 2012 Sandy Hook shooting; now it will also stop selling the weapons at its subsidiary Field & Stream stores.

Stack said the decision to eliminate assault-style rifles is permanent.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with all of the victims and their loved ones," the company said in a statement issued Wednesday. "But thoughts and prayers are not enough. 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.

"We have heard you. The nation has heard you. ... The systems in place are not effective to protect our kids and our citizens."

The statement asserted the company's support for the Second Amendment but continued, "we have to help solve the problem that's in front of us. Gun violence is an epidemic."

In addition to changing its own policies, the company issued a plea to elected officials to enact "common-sense gun reform," specifically calling for the following regulations:

  • Ban assault-style firearms
  • Raise the minimum age to purchase firearms to 21
  • Ban high-capacity magazines, as well as bump stocks — gun accessories that allow semi-automatic rifles to operate like fully automatic weapons
  • Require universal background checks that include relevant mental health information and previous interactions with the law
  • Ensure a complete universal database of those banned from buying firearms
  • Close the private sale and gun show loopholes that waive background checks

With their moves, Dick's and Walmart join a host of major companies that made changes in reaction to the Parkland shooting. As NPR's Amy Held reported last week, many other high-profile companies — from MetLife Insurance and First National Bank of Omaha to Symantec and Hertz — have ended their corporate partnerships with the National Rifle Association.

Those moves have not been without controversy.

Earlier this week, for instance, Georgia Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle threatened to "kill any tax legislation that benefits" Delta Air Lines after the company ended its own relationship with the NRA. Delta, which is based in Atlanta, had announced two days earlier that "we will be requesting that the NRA remove our information from their website" — a decision Cagle described as an attack on conservatives.

Asked about the potential for pushback among gun rights advocates, Stack acknowledged the move "isn't going to make everyone happy. But when we look at what those kids and the parents and the heroes in the school, what they did, our view was: If the kids can be brave enough to organize like this, we can be brave enough to get these [firearms] out of here."

"We're staunch supporters of the Second Amendment," he added. "I'm a gun owner myself. We've just decided that based on what's happened and with these guns, we don't want to be part of this story."

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

One of the country's major sporting goods chains will no longer sell assault-style firearms or high-capacity magazines. Dick's Sporting Goods will also stop selling guns to consumers under the age of 21. The CEO of the company, Edward Stack, announced this new policy in an exclusive interview on ABC's "Good Morning America."

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "GOOD MORNING AMERICA")

EDWARD STACK: The systems that are in place across the board just aren't effective enough to keep us from selling someone a gun like that. And so we've decided that we're not going to sell the assault-type rifles any longer.

MARTIN: NPR's Colin Dwyer has been following this, and he joins me in the studio.

Hey, Colin.

COLIN DWYER, BYLINE: Hi, Rachel.

MARTIN: All right, so from this interview, what else do we know went into the company's decision? What else did the CEO of Dick's say that stood out to you?

DWYER: Well, as we know, a lot of the survivors from the Parkland high school shooting are actually going back to school today.

MARTIN: Yeah.

DWYER: And Stack mentioned that specifically in the interview. He said that the Parkland shooter actually bought a shotgun - it was not a weapon involved in the shooting. But he said that that nevertheless made an impact on them because that could...

MARTIN: He bought a weapon from Dick's...

DWYER: That is correct.

MARTIN: ...From a Dick's store.

DWYER: Yeah, yeah. And he said that if these kids can be brave enough to act - these survivors, we can be brave enough to take some of these guns out of our stores.

MARTIN: So here we have a major franchise, a sporting goods store, making this decision. I mean, what kind of an impact could this have?

DWYER: Well, Dick's is a major sporting goods retailer. It has more than 700 locations. We're not sure necessarily what impact it will have on other retailers or on Congress. But Stacks specifically called on Congress to act in his interview. In fact, the retailer put out a list of reforms they would like to see in terms of gun control this morning.

MARTIN: We've seen other companies, in recent days, distance themselves from the NRA - and now this by Dick's Sporting Goods. Any other rumblings about any other companies, retailers who are were going to make a move in this moment?

DWYER: Well, as you mentioned, there have been a host of major retailers who have actually ended their corporate relationships with the National Rifle Association in the past week. That includes Delta Airlines, many rental car companies, MetLife insurance. All of them have ended their corporate relationships with the NRA recently.

And toward that reason, Stack mentioned that he can foresee some backlash from guns rights activists. And he said that he is a Second Amendment supporter himself, a gun owner himself. But he said in the end...

MARTIN: He's willing to take that risk.

DWYER: He said, in the end, he just doesn't want to be a part of this story anymore.

MARTIN: NPR's Colin Dwyer. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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