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Hard Times for Dick's as Second Amendment Supporters Respond to Company’s Anti-Gun Bent

Friday, May 11, 2018

Hard Times for Dick's as Second Amendment Supporters Respond to Company’s Anti-Gun Bent

We have recently been reporting on the bizarre anti-gun activism of one of the nation’s larger firearm retailers, Dick’s Sporting Goods and its affiliated Field & Stream stores. First, the company announced it would stop selling most centerfire semi-automatic rifles at its stores, carry only limited capacity magazines for semi-automatic guns, and ban firearm sales to certain legally eligible adults. It then took the further step of declaring it would destroy its inventory of the newly-restricted firearms at company expense. And if that weren’t enough, the news also recently broke that the company had hired expensive D.C. lobbyists to push for gun control measures on Capitol Hill.  

Dick’s, in other words, was positioning itself as a rising star in the field of corporate gun control activism, in obvious contradiction of its own financial interests. 

Now, however, the pro-gun community is parrying Dick’s gun control thrust with their own countermeasures, while customers appear to be eschewing Dick’s to search for bargains elsewhere.

Last week, the Board of Governors of the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) – the trade association for the firearms, ammunition, hunting and shooting sports industries – voted unanimously to expel Dick’s Sporting Goods from membership in the organization. While the NSSF noted it supports the rights of its members to make individual business decisions, it determined that Dick’s new polices do not “reflect the reality of the vast majority of law-abiding gun owners” and constitute “conduct detrimental to the best interests of the Foundation.” Law-abiding gun owners, the company added, “should not be penalized for the actions of criminals.”

Meanwhile, members of the firearms industry have also begun withdrawing their products from Dick’s and Field & Stream outlets. 

First, Illinois-based Springfield Armory – maker of several lines of highly-popular rifles and pistols -- announced early this month that was “severing ties” with the two retailers. In announcing the decision, Springfield Armory stated, “we believe in the rights and principles fought for and secured by American patriots and our founding forefathers, without question.” It concluded, “We will not accept Dick’s Sporting Goods’ continued attempts to deny Second Amendment freedoms to our fellow Americans.”   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. Its business with Second Amendment supporters in particular may well grind to a halt.

Iconic shotgun maker O.F. Mossberg & Sons followed up this week with its own announcement that it will “not accept any future orders from Dick’s Sporting Goods or Field & Stream” and is “in the process of evaluating current contractual agreements.” Mossberg’s press release on the decision cited its own “staunch support[] of the U.S. Constitution and our Second Amendment right” and its disagreement with “Dick’s Sporting Goods’ recent anti-Second Amendment actions.” 

MKS Supply, marketer of Hi-Point Firearms and Inland Manufacturing, LLC, has now become the latest supplier to cut off Dick’s and Field & Stream. Its president, Charles Brown, justified the decision on the basis that “Dick’s Sporting Goods and its subsidiary, Field & Stream, have shown themselves, in our opinion, to be no friend of Americans’ Second Amendment.” He went on to cite several “wrong” moves by Dick’s in recent months, including “villainizing modern sporting rifles in response to pressure from uninformed, anti-gun voices” and “hiring lobbyists to oppose American citizens’ freedoms secured by the Second Amendment.”  

This industry pressure on Dick’s comes at a sensitive time for the company. Its shares took a steep 6.3% dive in March, amid what analysts described as a “downbeat outlook.” Indeed, its own CEO Edward Stack admitted his new investment in gun control “is not going to be positive from a traffic standpoint and a sales standpoint.”

How that assessment squares with his own obligations to the company and its shareholders is unclear. Profits, after all, are where the rubber meets the road in any business enterprise. 

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. Its business with Second Amendment supporters in particular may well grind to a halt.

Should that happen, Dick’s will have no one to blame but itself, and especially Mr. Stack. Dick’s example should serve as a warning for other businesses in the firearm sector that would hope to find common cause with activists who are seeking nothing so much as to put gun sellers out of business for good.

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