Dick’s Has Changed the ‘Bad for Business’ Narrative Surrounding Gun Restrictions
On February 14th, Nikolas Cruz killed 17 people at Stoneman Douglass High School in Parkland, Florida, using an assault-style rifle. He didn’t buy the gun at Dick’s Sporting Goods, but it was later discovered that Cruz had purchased a separate firearm from the retailer the previous November. The news resonated with the Pennsylvania-based company, which soon after announced that it would no longer sell assault-style rifles; nor would it sell guns of any kind to people under the age of 21. The decision was seen a risky move for a supplier of hunting equipment, but a quarterly sales report released Wednesday revealed that the company’s stock has surged by as much as 27 percent.
“There’s been a number of people who have started shopping us, or said they’re going to shop us more, because of the policy,” CEO Ed Stack explained on an earnings call. “There’s definitely been some benefit of people who joined us, so to speak, because of the policy.”
Dick’s also announced that its online sales have risen 24 percent. In-store sales are down 2.5 percent, but the company attributes the decrease to “a continued deceleration in hunt and electronics sales” and cold spring weather.
Though Dick’s stopped selling assault-style rifles at the company’s namesake stores after the 2015 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary, the guns were still for sale at the company’s hunting-focused Field & Stream outlets. In addition to removing assault-style rifles from shelves and raising the minimum purchase age of all firearms to 21, Dick’s has also discontinued the sale of high-capacity magazines. “Even as strong supporters of the Second Amendment, we feel now is the time to have meaningful discussion about common sense reform with the intent of finding a solution,” the company said in a statement. “We promise to keep the conversation going.”
The decision was met by fierce opposition from the NRA and other guns rights activists. When the company announced in April that it would be destroying its unsold assault-style rifles, the NRA questioned its business model.
.@DICKS decision isn’t focusing on the actual problem, what it is doing is punishing law-abiding citizens. What a waste, and what a strange business model. #DefendTheSecond #2A #NRA https://t.co/mUNmV6O1ot
— NRA (@NRA) April 17, 2018
Most of the NRA’s criticism of Dick’s has relied on the expectation that the company would suffer from its decision. Later in April, the group tweeted that Dick’s stock price was down 35 percent from last year, and that they “feel bad for the shareholders.” A few weeks later, they wondered if the company might fold as a result of the decision. “What is becoming increasingly clear, however, is that Dick’s has inserted itself into a tight spot from which it might not emerge unscathed, if it manages to survive at all,” the NRA tweeted.
Gun groups were further incensed earlier this month when Dick’s hired a lobbyist to push for responsible gun control legislation. The move led gun manufacturers like Hi Point, Inland and Mossberg, as well as the National Shooting Sports Foundation, to cut ties with the company. It hasn’t seemed to matter. “We don’t have the best relationship with the firearms manufacturers right now,” Stack said after the stock surge was announced. “As far as the NSSF expelling us, we didn’t have a whole lot to do with them … It’s not really that big of a deal.”
Though several major corporations cut ties with the NRA following the February 14th shooting in Parkland, Dick’s – along with Walmart, which also announced it would stop selling guns to people under 21 – drew added attention for taking concrete steps to alter their policy regarding firearms. Though Dick’s has received plenty of backlash from gun groups, the pressure gun control activists have placed on companies to disassociate from the NRA has been more significant. When it was revealed that supermarket chain Publix had given hundreds of thousands of dollars to a Florida gubernatorial candidate who supports the NRA, Parkland survivor-turned-activist David Hogg staged a “die-in” at two Publix locations.
I call on @Publix to donate double the money they gave to Putman to the Stoneman Douglas Victims fund, $1,000,000. And never support an A rated NRA politician again.
— David Hogg (@davidhogg111) May 24, 2018
Though Publix has yet to comply with Hogg’s donation request, the chain announced on Friday that it would suspend all political donations.