On June 4-5, the annual Yale Mayors College & CEO Summit was held in New York City. The theme of this year’s CEO Summit was “Trumpeting the Issues without Becoming the Issue: Selective Use of CEO Voice.” Making clear that much of the event was about corporate virtue signaling strategy, “Session 2” on the June 4 agenda was titled, “The Courage to Stand Alone: CEO Voice & Virtue.”
With the promotion of virtue-signaling the goal, Yale secured its two finest practitioners in their respective fields. At the event, Pittsburgh Mayor William Peduto presented DICK’S Sporting Goods CEO Edward Stack with the “Maverick in Leadership Award.” According to a press release from Peduto’s office, the award was for Stack’s “work on behalf of common-sense gun safety measures.”
Peduto presented the award alongside Ethan Allen CEO Farooq Kathwari. History buffs will note the irony attendant to the CEO of a company that trades off the name of an American Revolutionary War patriot promoting gun control.
The choice of Peduto to present the award to Stack was inspired. In his pursuit of gun control, Peduto has breached his duty to the public by advocating for local anti-gun measures that are illegal under Pennsylvania law. It can be argued that Stack has deviated from his duty to shareholders in order to indulge his political predilections.
In December, Peduto’s office proposed a raft of local gun control ordinances in violation of Pennsylvania’s firearms preemption law. The relevant statute (18 Pa.C.S.A. § 6120) makes clear,
No county, municipality or township may in any manner regulate the lawful ownership, possession, transfer or transportation of firearms, ammunition or ammunition components when carried or transported for purposes not prohibited by the laws of this Commonwealth.
Moreover, the matter of local gun ordinances had already been settled by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. In a 1996 case involving a local ordinance that restricted commonly-owned semi-automatic firearms, Ortiz v. Pennsylvania, the court determined,
Because the ownership of firearms is constitutionally protected, its regulation is a matter of statewide concern. The constitution does not provide that the right to bear arms shall not be questioned in any part of the commonwealth except Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, where it may be abridged at will, but that it shall not be questioned in any part of the commonwealth. Thus, regulation of firearms is a matter of concern in all of Pennsylvania, not merely in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, and the General Assembly, not city councils, is the proper forum for the imposition of such regulation.
Despite the statute and clear precedent, in April Peduto signed legislation restricting the “use” of commonly-owned semi-automatic firearms and standard capacity magazines within the city. NRA immediately filed suit against Pittsburgh to vindicate city residents’ rights.
In February 2018, Stack announced that DICK’S and its affiliated Field & Stream stores (no relation to the publication of the same name) would stop selling commonly-owned semi-automatic rifles and would no longer sell any firearms to young adults ages 18-20. Stack also made clear that DICK’S would encourage lawmakers to pass a host of gun control measures, including a ban on commonly-owned semi-automatic firearms and standard capacity magazines, a ban on firearm sales to young adults ages 18-20, and the criminalization of private firearm transfers. The company went on to destroy its existing stock of commonly-owned semi-automatic firearms and hire corporate lobbyists to push its anti-gun agenda.
While Stack’s subsequent appearances in the national media might have boosted his ego, the CEO’s gun control push didn’t boost his company’s bottom line. In August 2018, DICK’S blamed sluggish sales partly on, “negative reactions to our policies related to the sale of firearms and accessories.” In December, DICK’S noted that it may close its hunting and fishing-focused Field & Stream stores. In March, DICK’S announced that it would stop selling firearms entirely in 125 of its stores. Later that month, Bloomberg reported that “Dick’s estimates the policy change cost the company about $150 million in lost sales...”
Given the acclamation Peduto’s anarchic behavior has received in the legacy press and gun control circles, look for the lawless mayor to receive some dubious “award” for his gun control advocacy in the coming months. Hopefully Stack will be on hand to present the award and complete the promise of this mutual admiration society. With their haphazard attack-gun-rights-at-all-costs approach, Peduto and Stack deserve each other. Sadly, their constituents and shareholders don’t deserve either.