Dick's Sporting Goods ends assault rifle sales: Measuring the impact

9 months ago by Jeremy Bloom

In a direct response to the Parkland shooting last week that killed 17, the CEO of Dick's Sporting Goods, Edward W. Stack, has announced that his stores will no longer sell assault-style weapons, also known as modern hunting rifles. The chain will also raise the age requirement for firearms purchases to 21, and end the sale of high-capacity manazines. 

“If the kids in Parkland are being brave enough to stand up and do this, we can be brave enough to stand up with them,” Stack said.

Dick's, along with its subsidiary Field and Stream, is one of the nation's largest retailers of sporting goods with more than 720 stores.

Dick's Sporting Goods Stores locationsDick's Sporting Goods and Field & Stream store locations

Walmart, the nation's leading seller of firearms, has already banned assault-style weapons in 2015. According to Money magazine, Dick's move leaves just one major retail chain still selling the weapons: Bass Pro Shops and its affiliated Cabela's. 

Bass Pro Shops and Cabela's storesBass Pro Shops and Cabela's store locations

Bass and Cabela's only combine for 160 stores, though.

UPDATE: Two more retail giants have piled on:

  • Walmart ($NYSE:WMT), which sells more guns than anybody, raised its age requirement to 21 (it had already cut out assault-style rifles)
  • Kroger ($NYSE:KR), the nation's largest grocery store chain, sells firearms through its Fred Meyer division, which runs 43 grocery and general goods stores in the Pacific Northwest. Those general stores will now stop selling guns to under-21s, and will also stop selling assault-style rifles at its Alaska stores (it had already ended those sales in other states).

Dick's issued the following statement, signed by Stack:

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.

But thoughts and prayers are not enough.

We have tremendous respect and admiration for the students organizing and making their voices heard regarding gun violence in schools and elsewhere in this country.

We have heard you. The nation has heard you.

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.

Following all the of the rules and laws,  we sold a shotgun to the Parkland shooter in November 2017. It was not the gun, nor the type of gun, he used in the shooting. But it could have been.

Clearly this indicates that the systems in place are not effective to protect our kids and our citizens.

They followed up with a call for legislative action, as well:

How has that been playing out on Twitter? While there have been many negative comments, and many NRA supporters calling for a boycott and un-following Dick's, they've netted more than a thousand new followers an hour since making the announcement.

February 27 February 28 (3 pm)
Twitter followers 389 k 400 k
Facebook likes 5.39 m 5.47 m

On Facebook, the company pages has added a net 80,000 likes, and the statement has been shared an incredible 430,000 times, with 135,000 comments so far. And the numbers are overwhelmingly supportive:

  • 289,000 likes
  • 133,000 loves
  • 20,000 angry

On Twitter, the positive comments seem to be outweighing the negative as well:

...compare that with:

Support for gun control is peaking, according to pollster Quinnipiac:

American voters support stricter gun laws 66 - 31 percent, the highest level of support ever measured by the independent Quinnipiac University National Poll, with 50 - 44 percent support among gun owners and 62 - 35 percent support from white voters with no college degree and 58 - 38 percent support among white men. 

Today's result is up from a negative 47 - 50 percent measure of support in a December 23, 2015, survey by the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University Poll. 

Support for universal background checks is itself almost universal, 97 - 2 percent, including 97 - 3 percent among gun owners. Support for gun control on other questions is at its highest level since the Quinnipiac University Poll began focusing on this issue in the wake of the Sandy Hook massacre:

  • 67 - 29 percent for a nationwide ban on the sale of assault weapons;
  • 83 - 14 percent for a mandatory waiting period for all gun purchases. It is too easy to buy a gun in the U.S. today, American voters say 67 - 3 percent. If more people carried guns, the U.S. would be less safe, voters say 59 - 33 percent. Congress needs to do more to reduce gun violence, voters say 75 - 17 percent.

And that's building on a steady trend the past few years, after more than a decade of falling support:

Statista stricter gun laws supportOn the other hand, one of the reasons that this debate has been so polarizing and protracted (despite overwhelming support for increased gun contol) is that the folks who are pro-guns/pro-Second Amendment have been - at least in the past - more active than their opponents on the matter.

This graphic from Politico/Morning Consult pretty much sums that up. It remains to be seen how much that negativity will carry forward - but as you can tell from the tweets above, a lot of these folks hold grudges.

Jeremy Bloom

When Jeremy Bloom isn't writing about energy, the environment, or the amazing strangeness of modern life, you can find him drinking really good single malt whisky...

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