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Dick’s Sporting Goods increases gun sales restrictions


The gun department in a Dick's Sporting Goods store in Arlington, Virginia displays a variety of rifles. Dick's has announced new restrictions on gun sales. Photo courtesy of Tribune News Service Buy Photos

The firearm section of the Dick's Sporting Goods at College Mall was quiet Saturday afternoon. Mounted deer heads gazed down from a wall where dozens of rifles hung. 

Dick’s Sporting Goods announced Wednesday it will no longer sell assault-style rifles or high-capacity magazines, and it will not sell guns to anyone under 21.

The announcement stirred up conversation about whether private companies should be regulating gun sales themselves.

One gun owner who was shopping at Dick’s Saturday said he worried the move by the company would lead to larger restrictions on gun sales. 

Another customer, 23-year-old Kyle Blake, who owns multiple AR-style rifles, was torn on the company’s decision. He said the restrictions may be good to keep guns out of kids’ hands, but 18-year-old are not kids.

“If when you’re 18 you can carry a pistol in the military, you should be able to buy a gun,” he said.

Paul Helmke, an IU professor and former president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, disagreed.

“The bottom line — AR-15s are not hunting rifles,” he said. “Their utility is that they’re good at shooting a lot of people quickly.”

Blake said he doesn’t use his AR rifle for hunting. He shoots it for fun.

The announcement from Dick’s came in the wake of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida on Valentine’s Day, which resulted in the deaths of 17 people.

Dick’s stopped selling assault-style rifles at all Dick’s Sporting Goods locations after the Sandy Hook massacre, but the weapons were still sold at all 35 of the company’s Field & Stream stores.

Twenty children and six adults were killed with a Bushmaster AR-15 at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012.

The shooter in Parkland used the same kind of rifle.

Helmke said the announcement from Dick’s felt like the logical second step to its decision after Sandy Hook.

“I like the idea of the private sector taking the lead on this,” he said, “because the government hasn’t been.”

The statement from Edward Stack, the CEO of Dick's, responded directly to the Parkland shooting.

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

Helmke said the company may have made these changes to appease its customers or to feel like they are being corporately responsible.

Since the announcement by Dick’s, Walmart, LL Bean and Kroger have also increased restrictions on gun sales.

“The systems in place are not effective to protect our kids and our citizens,” the statement from Dick’s said. “We believe it’s time to do something about it”.

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