Uproar has ensued since Dick’s Sporting Goods announced they would no longer sell guns to customers under the age of 21. They would furthermore no longer carry AR-15 pattern rifles (or any other similar semi-automatic rifle) nor high-capacity (whatever that means) magazines.
The policy is also being enacted at Field and Stream, the outdoor-themed subsidiary of Dick’s. For those unaware, the chain of stores has nothing to do with the magazine of the same name; one suspects the shared name is no accident. Granted, Dick’s hasn’t really sold AR-pattern rifles in their main stores for some time, as that was left to a few dozen Field and Stream stores.
Walmart followed suit by also announcing they will likewise stop offering modern sporting rifles and won’t sell firearms or ammunition to anyone under 21. Kroger and their subsidiary Fred Meyer stores will be enforcing the same policy.
The backlash has been swift. Comments sections around the web have erupted with vitriol and profanity. Teeth have been gnashed and garments rent. Some folks have even accused Dick’s of being “traitors” which is laughable. Dick’s is a publicly traded company. They don’t have a responsibility to sell what you want them to. Their responsibility is to their shareholders. To whom or what would they be traitors to?
Infer what you wish about these retailers and their motives, but I’d like to propose the following:
This isn’t a big deal. At all. Outrage about Dick’s and Walmart is a tempest in ballistic teacup. Yes, there’s the principle of the thing and all that, but let’s be realistic. The actual damage our side has incurred is minimal at best.
First, Dick’s doesn’t really sell that many guns. An IBISWorld report (purchase is required if you’re that interested) found that there is no real dominant player in firearms sales nationally.
There may be some large regional retailers, but there is no dominant firearms and ammunition seller in the US. In fact, the large retail chains that sell firearms – Cabela’s/Bass Pro Shops, Gander Mountain, Walmart, Dick’s Sporting Goods – only add up to about six percent of firearm sales as a whole.
Also, these companies don’t make much revenue from gun sales. Cabela’s, for instance, made about 47.1 percent of their $2.4 billion in sales in 2014 through hunting equipment, of which guns are just a small part. Presuming guns were even a quarter of that amount, that’s still a very healthy business without firearms. Gander Mountain similarly took in about 43 percent of its annual sales in that period from hunting equipment, of which, again, gun sales were only a fraction.
Dick’s Sporting Goods, on the other hand, makes its money on athletic apparel and equipment. Have a look at their page on MarketWatch. You should be able to pick up on the idea pretty quick; they’re just another retailer struggling in the Amazon era. It’s just that some of their locations — the Field & Stream stores — happen to have a gun counter.
Sports team jerseys make them more money than guns do. One of their biggest recent spikes in revenue was from selling Eagles jerseys after the Super Bowl. So Dick’s and the 35 Field & Stream stores across the country declining to carry AR-pattern rifles is no real loss in the grand scheme of things. They’re only bit players in a large, diffuse, widely disbursed retail market.
Also, their corporate policies are set by their executive board. They’re free to set policies they believe are best for revenues and their stock price. We’re free to take our business elsewhere. You can always find somewhere else to buy your Nikes and you probably weren’t going to buy any guns there anyway.
If you want to stick it to Dick’s and Walmart, buy your athletic equipment and cheap t-shirts from Amazon. As it stands, that’s who’s running much of the brick and mortar retail sector out of business anyhow.
And for those fence-sitters out there, don’t think another “assault weapon” will be some kind of panacea. It won’t be. The last one didn’t stop mass shootings and a new one won’t accomplish anything besides infringing on the rights of law-abiding and responsible gun owners.
The cascade of human failures that make school shootings such as Parkland possible have nothing to do with AR-15s being available for purchase. They have much more to do with sick people being present among us, and those around them – and sometimes the authorities that should know better – not doing something about it before tragedy unfolds.
So stop kidding yourselves. In the big picture, Dick’s Sporting Goods’ decision isn’t some sort of major deprivation for gun buyers. They apparently want to send a good portion of their customers elsewhere, so by all means let them.