Outdoor and sporting goods retailer Dick’s Sporting Goods announced this week that it would stop selling assault-style weapons in its stores, in the wake of a deadly shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
The company has also said it will no longer sell high-capacity magazines and will no longer sell guns to anyone under the age of 21.
“When we saw what happened in Parkland, we were so disturbed and upset,” CEO Ed Stack said in an interview with The New York Times on Tuesday evening. “We love these kids and their rallying cry, ‘enough is enough.’ It got to us. We’re going to take a stand and step up and tell people our view and, hopefully, bring people along into the conversation.”
In a separate interview with ABC’s Good Morning America on Wednesday, Stack urged legislators to address the issue of gun violence prevention as well as mental health awareness and expanded background checks. “We’re taking these guns out of all our stores, permanently,” he said. “We hope that Congress will come together…and we hope they come together with the intent of really finding a solution, as opposed to knowing they are never going to do anything, just speak to their base.”
Dick’s initially pledged to remove all assault-style weapons from its stores following the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in 2012, but later began selling them through a subsidiary store, Field & Stream. Now, Stack says, that policy will be permanent: none of his businesses will sell or carry any type of such weapons.
Part of the reason for this decision, Stack explained, was his company’s involvement with the alleged Parkland gunman himself; although Dick’s did not sell 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz the firearm he used during the shooting, it did previously sell Cruz a shotgun.
“We actually sold the shooter a shotgun in November of last year,” Stack told CNN’s New Day on Wednesday. “We looked at that and found out we did this, we had a pit in our stomach. … We did everything by the book that we were supposed to do from a legal standpoint. We followed everything we were supposed to do, and somehow, this kid was still able to buy a gun from us. We said we don’t want to be a part of this story any longer.”
The policy change will undoubtedly affect Dick’s bottom-line: as the Times noted, the company announced in August last year that it had already missed its second-quarter earnings estimates due to weakened sales in its hunting weapons sector. With its latest move, the company will likely see a further drop.
But none of that has deterred Stack. “There was backlash after Sandy Hook. We expect that there’s going to be backlash here,” he said on Wednesday. “But when you look at those kids and their parents and the grief everyone is going through… we don’t want to be a part of this story any longer.”
The majority of Dick’s gun sales customer base has already said it’s supportive of tighter restrictions, Stack told CNN. That’s reflective of the overall community as well: according to a recent Quinnipiac University poll, the majority of gun owners are supportive of stricter policies, with at least 97 percent in favor of universal background checks. Approximately 50 percent of gun owners favor tighter gun laws overall.
“We’ve had so many gun owners… say, ‘You know what, this is the right thing to do. We don’t feel that we really need to have these types of guns on the market,'” Stack said. “…I’m a gun owner myself. I’m a supporter of the Second Amendment. But we have to do something about this. This is tragic what’s going on and we’re taking a stand.”