Dick’s Sporting Goods, one of the largest sports retailers in the U.S., will immediately end the sale of assault-style rifles in its stores and stop selling guns of any type to anyone under age 21.
The company made the announcement Wednesday, precisely two weeks after a school shooting in Parkland, Florida.
“We deeply believe that this country’s most precious gift is our children. They are our future. We must keep them safe. Beginning today, DICK’S Sporting Goods is committed to the following: http://d.sg/RTC,” the company said in a post on Twitter.
“We need to make a statement,” chairman and CEO Edward Stack said in an interview Wednesday on CNN. “We don’t want to be part of this story any longer.”
Stack said the Florida shooting suspect, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, legally purchased an AR-15 assault rifle from Dick’s in November, but it was not the one used to kill 14 students and 3 staff members at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
Stack, who said he remains a strong advocate of the U.S. Constitution’s Second Amendment, asserted the nation’s gun laws do not prevent dangerous people from buying guns and that lawmakers must act to strengthen those laws.
The executive called on elected officials to ban assault-style firearms, high-capacity magazines and “bump stocks,” which are devices that enable semi-automatic rifles to fire hundreds of rounds per minute. Stack also proposed raising the minimum age to buy guns to 21.
He said Dick’s, which also stopped selling high-capacity magazines, is prepared for any backlash but will not change its policies on gun sales. “We’re comfortable with our decision,” he said, adding that Dick’s will continue to sell an array of hunting and sport firearms.
The announcement is one of the strongest positions taken by a major U.S. corporation since the massacre, which has reignited the national gun debate and sparked a wave of gun-control rallies across the country.
More than a dozen U.S. corporations have ended partnerships with the National Rifle Association since the mass shooting, including Delta Airlines and United Continental Holdings, Inc., which owns United Airlines.
Other companies that have cut ties with the NRA include Avis, Best Western International, Enterprise Rent-a-Car, Metlife, the Hertz Corporation, and Wyndham Worldwide Corporation.
The NRA is one of the country’s most powerful lobbying groups for gun rights and claims 5 million members. In the 2016 elections, the NRA gave $54 million in political donations, much of that during the presidential race.
It is not unusual for some members of Congress to have individually received hundreds of thousands of dollars — even millions — from the NRA. While some Democrats are also recipients of NRA financial support, the top benefactors are currently members of the Republican Party.
Last week, NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre told the Conservative Political Action Conference outside Washington that those advocating for stricter gun control were exploiting the Florida shooting.
Gun control advocates have noted that many teenagers in America can legally purchase assault rifles before they’re eligible to vote or drink alcohol. Twenty-eight of the 50 states have no minimum age requirement for owning a rifle.
Another giant U.S. retail seller of guns, Walmart, Inc., stopped selling AR-15 rifles and other semi-automatic weapons in 2015.