Dick’s Sporting Goods CEO Edward Stack said Wednesday that his company “expect(s) backlash” from the hunting community for its decision to halt sales of assault rifles and not sell guns to anyone under 21.
But his company no longer wants to be part of the narrative surrounding mass shootings, he said.
“Our hearts went out to those kids and to their parents,” he told CNN Wednesday, referencing the students and parents from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School who have been advocating for gun control since 17 people were killed in a shooting at their school earlier this month. “Everybody talks about thoughts and prayers going out to them, and that’s great, but that doesn’t really do anything. We felt we needed to take a stand and do this.”
Stack, a gun owner, acknowledged that the hunting community is an important part of their business and there will “no doubt” be a large swath of customers angered by their decision, but he said the management team was inspired by the bravery of the teens who have been vocal about gun policy reform since the massacre.
“When you look at those kids and their parents and the grief everyone is going through, we don’t want to be a part of this story any longer,” he said.
Last November, the alleged gunman, a 19-year-old former student of the high school, legally purchased a gun from Dick’s Sporting Goods, Stack said. The weapon was not the same guns he used in the school attack, but Stack said company officials “had a pit in our stomach” when they found out.
“We looked at this and we went back and we did everything by the book that we were supposed to do from a legal standpoint,” he said. “We followed everything we were supposed to do, and somehow this kid was still able to buy a gun from us. … We need a responsibility to these kids, and we decided we’re not going to sell these anymore.”
After the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School five years ago, the company decided to suspend its sales of assault rifles, but the decision didn’t stick. Stack said that won’t be the case this time.
“We concluded that, if these kids are brave enough to organize and do what they’re doing, we should be brave enough to take the stand and that’s what we’ve done,” he said.
Watch a portion of the interview below: