Firearms and sportsmen groups respond to retail activism on gun control

Dick's Sporting Goods Store | Mike Mozart CC

ALBEMARLE — In March, major sporting goods retailer Dick’s Sporting Goods issued an open letter announcing changes to the company’s firearms sales policies. In the letter, Dick’s said it will no longer sell many configurations of commonly owned semiautomatic rifles and certain magazines and the company will refuse to sell firearms to adults ages 18 to 20.

Following the open letter, Walmart, Kroger-owned Fred Meyer and L.L. Bean announced that they would also refuse to sell firearms to adults ages 18 to 20. Walmart also pledged to stop selling nonlethal products that resemble commonly owned semiautomatic rifles, such as toys and airsoft guns, on their website. Dick’s later declared it would destroy its inventory of the newly restricted firearms at company expense and the company hired lobbyists to push for gun control measures on Capitol Hill.

The pro-gun community is now responding to Dick’s gun control shift by encouraging customers to not patronize Dick’s and its subsidiary Field & Stream. Field & Stream stores have no relation to the publication of the same name.

Last week, the National Shooting Sports Foundation — the trade association for the firearms, ammunition, hunting and shooting sports industries — voted unanimously to expel Dick’s Sporting Goods from membership in the organization. In announcing the move, the NSSF said that Dick’s new polices do not “reflect the reality of the vast majority of law-abiding gun owners” and constitute “conduct detrimental to the best interests of the Foundation.” Law-abiding gun owners, the group added, “should not be penalized for the actions of criminals.”

FILE PHOTO A man shoots an AR-15 | David Veksler CC

While Dick’s has sought to limit the types of guns it sells, members of the firearms industry have started limiting the retailers to whom they will sell arms. Illinois-based Springfield Armory — which counts George Washington as its initial patron and served as a supplier to the Revolutionary War effort — announced early this month that it was “severing ties” with Dick’s and Field & Stream. In announcing the decision, Springfield Armory stated, “we believe in the rights and principles fought for and secured by American patriots and our founding forefathers, without question.” It concluded, “We will not accept Dick’s Sporting Goods’ continued attempts to deny Second Amendment freedoms to our fellow Americans.”

Shotgun maker O.F. Mossberg & Sons followed Springfield this week announcing that it will “not accept any future orders from Dick’s Sporting Goods or Field & Stream” and is “in the process of evaluating current contractual agreements.” Mossberg’s press release on the decision cited its own “staunch support of the U.S. Constitution and our Second Amendment right” and its disagreement with “Dick’s Sporting Goods’ recent anti-Second Amendment actions.”

MKS Supply, marketer of Hi-Point Firearms and Inland Manufacturing, has now become the latest supplier to cut off Dick’s and Field & Stream. Its president, Charles Brown, justified the decision on the basis that “Dick’s Sporting Goods and its subsidiary, Field & Stream, have shown themselves, in our opinion, to be no friend of Americans’ Second Amendment.”

This industry pressure on Dick’s comes at a sensitive time for the company. Its shares took a steep 6.3 percent dive in March, amid what analysts described as a “downbeat outlook.” Indeed, its own CEO Edward Stack admitted his new investment in gun control “is not going to be positive from a traffic standpoint and a sales standpoint.”

Dick’s share price is down more than 30 percent from April 2017 to April 2018. There are five Dick’s locations in the Stanly County area, including locations in Salisbury, Concord and Matthews. The only three Field & Stream locations in N.C. are in Greensboro, Fayetteville and Asheville.