Culture


Dick’s pulled out; they say it’s for good this time. They say we should believe them; it’s different than it was before. Should we believe them?

Today Dick’s Sporting Goods announced that they would stop selling assault weapons. Dick’s CEO Edward Stack told the New York Times, “When we saw what happened in Parkland, we were so disturbed and upset. We love these kids and their rallying cry, ‘enough is enough.’ It got to us.”

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The company released a statement to the public which acknowledged its role in legally providing the Parkland shooter with a shotgun in 2017, though noted that said weapon was not used in the attack at Marjory Stoneman Douglas on February 14. The statement made note of the effect that the student activists from the school have had, and called on elected leaders to enact “common sense reform.” Dick’s also committed to a multi-part plan to help prevent such attacks in the future.

Beginning today, DICK’S Sporting Goods is committed to the following:

-We will no longer sell assault-style rifles, also referred to as modern sporting rifles. We had already removed them from all DICK’S stores after the Sandy Hook massacre, but we will now remove them from sale at all 35 Field & Stream stores.
-We will no longer sell firearms to anyone under 21 years of age.
-We will no longer sell high capacity magazines.
-We never have and never will sell bump stocks that allow semi-automatic weapons to fire more rapidly.

At the same time, we implore our elected officials to enact common sense gun reform and pass the following regulations:

-Ban assault-style firearms
-Raise the minimum age to purchase firearms to 21
-Ban high capacity magazines and bump stocks
-Require universal background checks that include relevant mental health information and previous interactions with the law
-Ensure a complete universal database of those banned from buying firearms
-Close the private sale and gun show loophole that waives the necessity of background checks

This dramatic move was met with widespread praise and no shortage of phallic punning on social media.

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Dick’s action leaves Bass Pro Shop as the sole national retailer currently selling assault-style rifles like the one used in the Parkland attack. It’s a bold move for the company, but one that speaks to an astute sensitivity to this cultural moment. A wave of retailers, including Delta and Enterprise, have responded to public pressure to cut ties with the NRA. What’s different about Dick’s decision is that it isn’t rescinding a reciprocal discount agreement with the lobbying group, but rather actively doing something to halt the sale of assault-style weapons.

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As MSN points out, this isn’t the first time the company has made such a gesture regarding guns. After the attack at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012, Dick’s removed all guns from a store near the school and suspended the sale of semi-automatic weapons nationwide.

That suspension didn’t stick. The company soon reinstated the sale of semi-automatic weapons through their Field & Stream stores. Today, when asked on Good Morning America if a similar reversal might be in the company’s future, Stack replied, “Never.”

“We’re staunch supporters of the 2nd Amendment. I’m a gun owner myself,” he continued said. “We’ve just decided that based on what’s happened with these guns, we don’t want to be a part of this story and we’ve eliminated these guns permanently.”

In the wake of the Parkland attack, many have gone from taking inspiration from the student activists to looking for leadership from elected officials, and now companies. While shaming elected officials who take massive campaign contributions from the NRA hasn’t proved effective yet, the threat of boycott and public scorn has sparked sudden changes of heart and crises of conscious in national brands.

This sort of movement can be heartening but it should also be tempered by the realization that corporations can and do make all sorts of arrangements outside of the public eye once a season of scrutiny has passed. Just as Dick’s started selling semi-automatics again after Sandy Hook, any company could quietly—or publicly—warm relations with the NRA. Companies are dependent on public dollars but they are not beholden to them, so considering brands and retailers as extensions of the will of the people will always inevitably fall short. Dick’s Sporting Good’s statement today is a great step forward but it doesn’t represent a turning tide so much as a response to a tide that is already being changed by forces not connected to a brand or a politician.

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In the end, it is individuals, working collectively, who bring about lasting change. The Parkland students are turning a tide and if brands run to catch up, all the better, but their participation is not an arbiter of success. As the Dick’s statement said, “We have tremendous respect and admiration for the students organizing and making their voices heard regarding gun violence in schools and elsewhere in our country. We have heard you. The nation has heard you.”





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