Decision by Dick’s to pull assault-style weapons applauded, derided by N.H. customers

  • Ron Mackenzie of Nova Scotia talks in the parking lot of Dick’s Sporting Goods in Concord on Wednesday, Feb., 28, 2018. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Steve Barnett of Litchfield talks in the parking lot of Dick’s Sporting Goods in Concord on Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2018. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • The firearms counter at Dick’s Sporting Goods in Concord on Wednesday. Corporate leaders at Dick’s Sporting Goods already pulled assault-type weapons from Dick’s locations after the Sandy Hook shooting in 2012, and on Wednesday they announced the decision to pull them from Field & Stream stores as well. LEAH WILLINGHAM / Monitor staff

  • Daniel Stone, 27, of Franklin talks in Concord on Wednesday about why he thinks Dick’s officials made the wrong decision to pull “assault-style” semi-automatic firearms from the shelves of Field & Stream stores. LEAH WILLINGHAM / Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Daniel Stone doesn’t like to see sports retail stores pulling rapid-fire, semi-automatic rifles off its shelves.

“I think it’s bullcrap, honestly,” said the 27-year-old from Franklin, who was shopping for ice fishing equipment at Dick’s Sporting Goods in Concord on Wednesday.

Stone said he was disappointed to learn that the retailer will no longer sell certain rifles or high-capacity magazines at its subsidiary Field & Stream stores.

“We will no longer sell assault-style rifles, also referred to as modern sporting rifles,” Dick’s CEO Edward Stack announced. “We had already removed them from all Dick’s stores after the Sandy Hook massacre, but we will now remove them from sale at all 35 Field & Stream stores.”

It seemed like the company was blaming assault rifles for gun violence instead of thinking of other factors, Stone said.

“If you want to kill someone, you’re going to kill someone,” Stone said. “Most of your responsible gun owners will say, ‘My guns have never committed a crime.’ ”

“They’re used for what they’re intended for, which is target shooting, hunting and stuff like that,” he said.

Stone said he doesn’t own an AR-15 or similar style weapon, but he said he would consider buying one in the future to add to the collection of pump-action shotguns, bolt-action rifles and handguns that he and his wife own.

But he might be more hesitant to buy anything from Dick’s now – especially a gun.

“If there was another store that has what I need, I may go somewhere else,” he said.

Besides pulling back on the sale of certain guns, Dick’s said it will no longer sell high-capacity magazines and won’t let anyone under 21 years of age buy a firearm.

The company, which operates more than 715 stores and is one of the largest sports retailers in the U.S., said it sold a shotgun to the Parkland shooter in November 2017.

“It was not the gun, nor type of gun, he used in the shooting. But it could have been,” Stack said in a memo to customers. “Clearly this indicates on so many levels that the systems in place are not effective to protect our kids and our citizens.”

Semi-automatic rifles fire a single round with each pull of the trigger and can be quickly reloaded with magazines holding 30 rounds or more. In New Hampshire, they can be used to hunt most game species during rifle season, although the size and type of round and magazine capacity may be restricted.

Dick’s customer Pam Wicklund of Boscawen said she and her husband own an AR-15 they use for target shooting.

Wicklund said she doesn’t think that the new policy at Dick’s would do much to eliminate gun violence. It wouldn’t stop kids from stealing guns from their parents or buying them illegally, she said.

“I don’t think it matters who sells them and who doesn’t,” Wicklund said. “People who want them are going to get them no matter what.”

But other Dick’s shoppers, including some gun owners, said they felt differently.

Steve Barnett of Whitefield said he owns a handgun and he also hunts. But he also said he doesn’t believe people – especially kids – should have access to assault rifles. He applauded Stack’s commitment to keeping those weapons out of Dick’s stores.

“I’m for the Second Amendment, but I think it was probably more appropriate at that time it was written,” he said. “I think it’s come to the point now where something has to change.”

Ron Mackenzie, who is from Nova Scotia, said he felt similarly. He’s not a hunter, but he’s an avid skier and golfer. When he comes to New Hampshire for weeks during the summer and wintertime, Dick’s is always a must-stop for him, he said.

“This policy might hurt them a bit in the beginning, but in the end, everyone will gain from it,” he said. “And you’ll start to see other businesses follow suit.”

Stack’s announcement about Dick’s coincided with the first day that students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., returned to school after a 19-year-old suspect killed 14 students and three teachers there on Feb. 14.

Stack said the activism of survivors of the Parkland shooting was one major reason his company decided to take action.

“We have tremendous respect and admiration for the students organizing and making their voices heard regarding gun violence in schools and elsewhere in our country,” Stack said during an interview on Good Morning America on Wednesday.

“We’re staunch supporters of the Second Amendment,” he said. “We’ve just decided that based on what’s happened and with these guns, we don’t want to be part of this story.”

(David Brooks contributed to this report. Leah Willingham can be reached at 369-3322, lwillingham@cmonitor.com or on Twitter