“Thoughts and Prayers Are Not Enough”: Dick’s Sporting Goods Stops Selling Assault-Style Rifles

“Thoughts and Prayers Are Not Enough”: Dick’s Sporting Goods Stops Selling Assault-Style Rifles

Martín Di Felice

Following the mass shooting at a Florida high school, one of the nation’s largest sporting goods stores announced Wednesday that it will enact tougher gun sale restrictions — including no longer selling assault-style rifles.

Saying "thoughts and prayers are not enough," Dick’s Sporting Goods CEO Edward Stack announced several gun sale restrictions at its over 600 nationwide chains.

"We don’t want to be a part of this story any longer," Stack told NBC News in an interview. "We were so disturbed and saddened by what happened down there and watching those kids be so brave to walk out of that school and start to organized for gun reform… if they can be that brave then we can be that brave too."

The chain will stop selling assault-style rifles, end the sale of firearms to buyers under 21 (up from federal minimum age of 18), stop selling high-capacity magazines and continue to never sell controversial bump stocks, the company said.

Stack cited "big support" from gun owners who told the company the assault weapon should be "off the market" and that they "don’t need" high capacity magazines.

"We’re a supporter of the second amendment, I’m a gun owner myself. We’re gonna continue this and we understand the vast majority of gun owners are law abiding citizens who use the guns to hunt and target shoot," Stack told NBC News. "There’s been too many of these shootings and too many young lives lost."

The move comes as several companies have publicly broken with the NRA and ended NRA member discount programs after the gun lobbying group objected to calls for stricter gun control measures.

The company said it had sold a shotgun to the Parkland shooter last November. Though the gun wasn’t used in the shooting, "it could have been."

Stack said this showed that "the systems in place are not sufficient to be able to stop this. So we decided we needed to take a stand here."

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Dick’s Sporting Goods further called on politicians to adopt its new store policies as laws. It also asked lawmakers to adopt universal background checks with more mental health and law enforcement interaction data, to create a universal database of banned firearm buyers, and stop allowing guns to be sold privately and at gun shows without background checks.

"Some will say these steps can’t guarantee tragedies like Parkland will never happen again," said Stack in the statement. "They may be correct — but if common sense reform is enacted and even one life is saved, it will have been worth it."

Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York, where the company was founded, praised the retailer’s move.

"I commend Dick’s Sporting Goods, a member of the New York family, for their leadership in taking smart measures to keep weapons out of the wrong hands," Cuomo said in a statement.

The company previously announced in 2012 they would stop selling assault-style rifles following the Sandy Hook school shooting. A year later they resumed selling them at their separate chain of Field & Stream specialty stores. Stack announced Wednesday that all 35 Field & Stream locations would stop selling assault-style rifles.

Stack told NBC News that while "there will be people who will say they don’t want to shop at our store any longer," ending the sale of assault-style weapons is "not going to have a real meaningful impact on our business."

Dick’s doesn’t break out it firearm sales directly in its financial reports. But its stock took a dive after August 2017 when it announced weak results in its hunting segment.

Firearm sales have been down overall since Trump’s election. Assault rifle manufacturers and stores selling them have been running deep discounts, with prices dropping to the $300’s, to clear off backlogged inventory following up a pre-election run-up. The glut was betting on a buying spree spurred by a Clinton victory that would lead to tighter gun restrictions.

Background checks, a proxy for the hard-to-track gun sales, fell 8 percent last year, the largest drop since the FBI began tracking in 1998.

Dick’s Sporting Goods stock price was up by 1.6 percent by mid-day trading.