Corporations make change when government won’t

CAITLYN SAMPLEY / AGGIE

Dick’s Sporting Goods, others restrict gun sales

In response to the recent shooting in Parkland, Fla. that killed 17 students and faculty and the typical sluggish reaction by representatives to ban assault rifles and ammunition, companies have begun to take gun control into their own hands.

Dick’s Sporting Goods announced last week that it would no longer sell assault-style rifles and high-capacity magazines or sell any gun to customers under 21 years of age. Other gun retailers like Kroger and L.L. Bean have also raised their age restrictions from 18 to 21, with Walmart further prohibiting the sale of any items resembling assault-style weapons. These announcements came after multiple companies cut ties with the National Rifle Association, including MetLife, the First National Bank of Omaha and Delta Air Lines, which is consequently facing political repercussions from Georgia state leaders.

Each high-profile mass shooting in the U.S. has followed the same disheartening, sickening pattern: a national outpouring of shock, mourning and rage, public outcry for an improvement of laws to prevent these tragedies and, ultimately, political inaction — until the next massacre, when the cycle repeats. Each time, anti-gun control politicians credulously cross their fingers in hopes that, somehow, without any amendments to the law, this was the last one — yet over 1,600 mass shootings have occurred in the U.S. since Sandy Hook in 2012.

But this time might be different, thanks to the legion of courageous student-protesters demanding stricter gun laws from their state and national representatives. Activists partaking in the National School Walkout on Mar. 14 and the March for Our Lives on Mar. 24 plan to keep the conversation alive, refusing to yield until weapons intended for the battlefield are banned from civilian possession. Companies big and small are using whatever power they possess to reduce the likelihood of another tragedy — because, as Edward W. Stack, chief executive and founder of Dick’s, proclaimed: “Thoughts and prayers are not enough.”

However, the efforts of corporate America and activists won’t accomplish the level of change necessary to combat the nation’s irregularly high rate of gun violence. Dick’s and Walmart are only two out of the nearly 64,000 gun stores registered in the U.S. Many gun owners purchase their firearms from other sources, such as unlicensed sellers and gun shows, enabling them to bypass background checks.

Nonetheless, the Editorial Board commends the corporations’ decision to act and, at the very least, encourage discussion and pressure other gun retailers to adopt similar policies. This is not a move that will definitively curtail the frequency of mass shootings, but it’s a symbolic one that’s nevertheless critical and poignant.

The most influence still rests in the hands of GOP lawmakers, who, despite being put to shame by the students and corporations, have largely failed to budge. It’s time that Republican politicians take a cue from major retailers and millions of Americans demanding tighter gun laws. As representatives of the developed country with the highest rate of mass shootings, they must stop offering empty platitudes of sympathy and instead start putting the lives of their constituents above the gun lobby.

 

Written by: The Editorial Board