After Florida school shooting, retailers weigh in on gun control debate

As retailers take a stance on gun control after a mass shooting that killed 17 people in Parkland, Florida, gun owners said they’ll boycott the stores.

Dick’s Sporting Goods, which owns Field & Stream, announced it would no longer sell assault-style rifles, also referred to as modern sporting rifles. Company officials said they already removed them from all Dick’s stores after the Sandy Hook massacre, but they will now remove them from all 35 Field & Stream stores.

“We at Dick’s Sporting Goods are deeply disturbed and saddened by the tragic events in Parkland. Our thoughts and prayers are with all of the victims and their loved ones,” said CEO Edward Stack in a statement to customers.

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The statement was in direct reaction to a mass shooting on Feb. 14 that left 17 dead at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. The tragedy has reignited a tense debate over gun control, this time with much of the conversation swayed by the teenagers impacted by the latest mass shooting. Teens have organized a March for Our Lives event on March 24, where protesters will take to the streets to demand change and end gun violence. Protests will take place in Washington, D.C. and communities around the U.S.

Dick’s also will no longer sell firearms to anyone under 21 years of age, and they will no longer sell high capacity magazines. Dick’s has multiple store locations in the region, including a Field & Stream store at Austin Landing.

The move leaves just one major retailer left that sells semi-automatic rifles: Bass Pro Shops. Privately-owned Bass Pro, which acquired Cabela’s last year, sells semi-automatic rifles and high-capacity magazines at both Cabela’s and Bass Pro Shops. This news organization reached out to Bass Pro Shops for a comment.

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Both Bass Pro and Cabela’s have a big presence in this region. Cabela’s has a 70,000-square-foot store at 5500 Cornerstone North Blvd., in the Cornerstone at Centerville development off exit 7 of Interstate 675 near Wilmington Pike, and a location in West Chester Twp. The stores employ about 130 employees.

Bass Pro Shops has a location in Forest Fair at 300 Cincinnati Mills Drive and has had plans to build one in West Chester Twp.

Joe Eaton of Buckeye Firearms Association said Dick’s Sporting Goods has a right to sell or not sell any products but that the policy won’t have any effect on mass shootings. He said firearms bans have failed time and time again, and won’t solve violence occurring in communities.

“It’s going to have no impact on violent crime in the United States,” he said.

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Dean Rieck, executive director of the Buckeye Firearms Association, said the decision is about “about caving to political pressure. He encouraged gun owners to take their business elsewhere and support businesses that believe in all constitutional rights.

“Buckeye Firearms Association is deeply disappointed that Dick’s Sporting Goods has chosen to punish law-abiding gun owners by restricting sales of legal firearms based on the bad actions of a mentally ill individual in Florida,” Rieck said in a statement. “Dick’s sold a shotgun to the Parkland killer in 2017, and while that particular firearm was not used in the Florida tragedy, we believe Dick’s has made a cynical financial calculation that infringing Second Amendment rights will do less damage to their bottom line than protests and bad press.”

Evan English, president and owner of the Olde English Outfitters in Tipp City, said interest for long guns and semi-automatic rifles has increased again recently. Since the election of President Donald Trump, some gun sales have slumped as gun owners no longer feared harsh restrictions with a Democrat in office.

“If you tell the American people that they can’t get something, they will rush out and buy it,” he said.

» CONTINUED COVERAGE: Walmart raising age to buy guns to 21 after Florida high school shooting

English said he believes Dick’s CEO could’ve scripted his response slightly better, but that he doesn’t find issues with the policies set in place at the retailer. Olde English makes sure customers are not intoxicated or under the influence of any drugs when they are buying firearms, and they also reserve the right to refuse sale if they believe the prospective buyer makes any statement of unlawful intent with a firearm.

“Those are the things we watch for,” he said. “We don’t want anyone to break the law.”

Local gun owners say they’ll spend their dollars at retailers that support gun rights. Tim O’Bryant, a resident of Kettering, said he wasn’t shocked to hear about Dick’s Sporting Goods’ decision as they’ve made similar choices in the past. He won’t be shopping there any time soon.

“I like to support our local shops. They truly care about the Second Amendment,” he said,.

“The problem is not the rifle,” he said. “I’m a law-abiding citizen, and restricting a certain firearm — it’s not going to keep guns out of the hands of lawless people. The killing was not done by a firearm — it was done by a human with an evil heart. People assault people.”


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