Dick's cuts off sales of assault-style rifles in stores

3 months 3 weeks 1 day ago Wednesday, February 28 2018 Feb 28, 2018 Wednesday, February 28, 2018 10:02:00 AM CST February 28, 2018 in News
By: Ian Nickens, KOMU 8 Reporter and The Associated Press
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COLUMBIA — Dick's Sporting Goods will immediately end sales of assault-style rifles and high-capacity magazines at all of its stores and ban the sale of all guns to anyone under 21.

KOMU 8 went to the Dick's Sporting Goods store in Columbia to see what customers thought of this decision.

Out of the 25 people we spoke to, 12 of them supported the ban. One of them was even an NRA member, who said civilians didn't need access to assault weapons. Most of the supporters agree with him.

"No one should be able to buy assault weapons, except for the police and people who need to use them like SWAT," Dick's customer Ronald Long said.

"I think if that's what they choose to do as a corporation, then that's their prerogative," customer Kristalle Johnson said.

"Today when I found out they had made the policy change, that I'd come out and buy something [to support them]," customer Ron Rowe said.

"That's why I'm here today, actually. I didn't need anything from Dick's, and I decided to buy clothes for everybody in my family because of their change in policy," customer Nancy Cheak-Zamora.

Seven people were against the decision. None of them wanted to appear on camera. One person said it won't solve the problem, while another said "guns don't kill people. You need someone to pull the trigger." Another said the Parkland shooting, which is what sparked the company's decision, wasn't Dick's Sporting Goods fault, so it shouldn't have to stop selling assault weapons.

Six people were undecided.

There are three Dick's Sporting Goods stores in Mid-Missouri. 

The announcement Wednesday comes two weeks after the school massacre in Parkland, Florida.

"When we saw what the kids were going through and the grief of the parents and the kids who were killed in Parkland, we felt we needed to do something," Chairman and CEO Edward Stack said on "Good Morning America."

Dick's, a major gun retailer, had cut off sales of assault-style weapons at stores following the Sandy Hook school shooting. But Dick's owns dozens of its Field & Stream stores, where there has been no such ban in place.

In a letter released Wednesday, Stack wrote, ''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. 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."

Nikolas Cruz, the gunman who killed 17 people in Florida, mostly students, had purchased a shotgun at a Dick's store in November 2017, Stack said.

"It was not the gun, nor type of gun, he used in the shooting," Stack wrote. "But it could have been. Clearly this indicates on so many levels that the systems in place are not effective to protect our kids and our citizens."

The gun issue has embroiled a number of companies since the Parkland shooting, from Delta Airlines to FedEx. Dick's Sporting Goods Inc. is based just outside of Pittsburgh in a state where the first day of deer hunting season is an unofficial holiday for many families.

On the other side of the state Wednesday, a religious group plans to host a blessing ceremony for couples with AR-15 rifles.

The World Peace and Unification Sanctuary in Newfoundland, north of Philadelphia, believes that the AR-15 symbolizes the "rod of iron" in the biblical book of Revelation.

An elementary school down the street has cancel classes for the day.

While guns that have been pulled from the racks at Dick's stores are not typically used for hunting, the company has entered an intense national conversation that most companies steer clear of to avoid offending potential customers.

Stack said on "Good Morning America" that Dick's is prepared for any potential backlash, but will never allow the sale of such guns in its stores again.

Stack on Wednesday called on elected officials to ban assault-style firearms, bump stocks and high capacity magazines and raise the minimum age to buy firearms to 21. He said universal background checks should be required, and there should be a complete universal database of those banned from buying firearms. He also called for the closure of the private sale and gun show loophole that waives the necessity of background checks.

Gun-control advocacy groups said voters and corporations are taking the lead on U.S. gun policy, and lawmakers need to catch up.

"This is the moment when business leaders across the country get to decide if they want to stand on the right side of history. Mothers make the majority of spending decisions for their families, and we want to shop with businesses that care about the safety of our families - making this a smart business move, too," said Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Acton for Gun Sense in America. "Dick's Sporting Goods should be applauded."

Walmart Inc., also a big gun seller, stopped selling AR-15 rifles and other semi-automatic weapons in 2015, citing weak sales.

[editor's note: This story has been updated to include mid-Missouri reaction to the ban.]

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