‘Thoughts and Prayers Are Not Enough': Dick's Sporting Goods to Halt Sales of Assault-Style Rifles

The leadership of the Parkland students who were "brave enough to organize" spurred the retailer's action, its CEO said

Dick's Sporting Goods will immediately stop selling assault-style rifles and ban the sale of all guns to anyone under 21, the company said Wednesday, as its CEO took on the National Rifle Association by demanding tougher gun laws after the massacre in Florida.

"As we looked at what happened down in Parkland, we were so disturbed and saddened by what happened we felt we really needed to do something," CEO Ed Stack said on "Good Morning America" Wednesday morning.

Dick's said it would also stop selling high-capacity magazines, the company said in a news release. Assault-style rifles were removed from Dick's Sporting Goods stores after the Sandy Hook shooting in 2012, but they are now being removed from its 35 Field & Stream stores as well. The company noted it has never sold the "bump stock" devices that can make semi-automatic weapons fire faster.

During the Public Safety Medal of Valor award ceremony, President Trump said that he has been in discussions with Attorney General Jeff Sessions on a proposal to ban “bump stocks,” devices that increase the firing rate of semi-automatic guns to match the firing rate of machine guns.

The company is also advocating for gun reform laws, including assault-style weapons, high-capacity magazine and "bump stock" bans and raising the minimum age of purchasing firearms to 21. It said in its release that "thoughts and prayers are not enough." 

Stack said that accused gunman Nikolas Cruz bought a shotgun at one of the company's stores in November, though that was not the weapon he allegedly used to kill 17 people and wound more than a dozen others at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where classes were resuming Wednesday.

"We realized that — and we did everything by the book, we did everything that the law required, and still he was able to buy a gun," Stack said. "We said 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 decided that we're not going to sell assault-type guns like that."

Stack cited the leadership of the Parkland students who were "brave enough to organize" as a spur for the retailer's own action.

Dick's Facebook post announcing the shift had more than 183,000 shares in just three hours, with opinion split among those in favor of the move and against it. 

"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," the statement 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."

Other corporations that changed policies in the wake of the shooting have felt backlashes both from gun reform advocates and gun rights supporters. Delta Airlines ended a partnership with the National Rifle Association only to have the Lt. Governor of Georgia threaten to end its jet fuel sales tax exemption. But FedEx's decision not to end a business association with the NRA has prompted customers to talk of boycotting the delivery company.

Andrew Pollack, whose daughter was murdered in the Parkland school shooting, gave an emotional plea to President Donald Trump during the listening session Wednesday on public safety.

A Connecticut-based guns rights group responded to Dick's Sporting Goods policy change and described it as a form of age discrimination by not selling guns to people under the age of 21.

Walmart Inc., the world's largest retailer, also announced Wednesday said it is raising the age restriction for purchase of firearms and ammunition to 21 years of age. The company said the policy will take effect "going forward" and that it will update its processes "as quickly as possible to implement this change."

The company stopped selling AR-15 rifles and other semi-automatic weapons back in 2015 because of sluggish demand. Walmart also does not sell bump stocks or large capacity magazines.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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