Bass Pro Shops is the last one standing.
Following the high school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that claimed the lives of 17 students and teachers, the polarizing gun debate has raged past Capitol Hill to the very entities that sell them. Within the last day alone, both Walmart and Dick’s Sporting Goods have tightened their policies on guns, declaring that they will no longer sell firearms and ammunition to anyone under 21 years old after numerous red flags were unable to stop the alleged gunman, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, from the tragic massacre. They have also discontinued the sales of assault-style rifles, commonly referred to as modern sporting rifles, within the last few years.
That leaves the Springfield-based outdoor recreation company the only major retailer still selling semi-automatic rifles.
As the parent company of former competitor Cabela’s, Bass Pro Shops remains one of the country’s largest privately-owned companies. Although it claims to have never sold bump stocks, Bass continues to offer high-capacity magazines and handguns, with weapons also made available for sale at gun shows and independent shops throughout the United States. (Bass completed its acquisition of Cabela’s in late September — a week before the Las Vegas shooting that killed 58 people and wounded hundreds of others, prompting Cabela’s to discontinue bump stock sales at all retail locations.)
But in the weeks since the Parkland shooting, a growing number of Americans are calling for tougher gun laws, with the surviving students themselves emerging as a political force in the nationwide gun debate. In recent days, more than a dozen companies have cut corporate ties with the National Rifle Association.
One of the latest to defy the organization was Dick’s Sporting Goods, as CEO Edward Stack called on lawmakers to enact gun reform that bans assault-style firearms, high-capacity magazines and bump stocks — an attachment that allows semi-automatic weapons to fire at a pace nearly as rapid as a fully automatic machine gun.
“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. We have heard you. The nation has heard you,” Stack wrote in a media statement. “We support and respect the Second Amendment, and we recognize and appreciate that the vast majority of gun owners in this country are responsible, law-abiding citizens. But we have to help solve the problem that’s in front of us. Gun violence is an epidemic that’s taking the lives of too many people, including the brightest hope for the future of America — our kids.”
In the statement, the outdoor and athletic retailer added that it sold a shotgun to the alleged Parkland shooter last November. Dick’s said that it will cut high-capacity magazines and no longer sell assault-style rifles at its 35 Field & Stream outlets after removing the guns from its flagship stores back in 2012. It has never sold bump stocks.
Just hours after Dick’s announcement, Walmart also updated its firearms policy, three years after the company ended sales of modern sporting rifles, including the AR-15 — a type similar to the one used at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting two weeks ago. The retailer doesn’t sell bump stocks, high-capacity magazines and handguns — with the exception of Alaska — and requires that customers pass a background check to complete any weapons transaction.
“In light of recent events, we’ve taken an opportunity to review our policy on firearm sales,” Walmart said in a statement. “Our heritage as a company has always been in serving sportsmen and hunters, and we will continue to do so in a responsible way.”
Despite customer calls for a change, it remains to be seen whether Bass Pro Shops will follow in these major retailers’ footsteps, with hunting supplies accounting for a large portion of its sales. (It is unclear how much revenue the company makes directly from gun sales.) Currently, Bass Pro Shops requires that customers be 21 or older to purchase any firearm other than a rifle or shotgun, which caps those under 18 years of age.
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