Dick's CEO: Stricter gun-sales policies are worth the cost

Dick's Sporting Goods stopped selling assault-style weapons in its stores following the 2012 massacre of 26 people, including 20 sixth- and seventh-graders, at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

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While that policy change wasn't permanent, the retailer reinstituted it in 2018 after the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., which claimed 17 lives.

“A defining moment of this was when we found out that we’d sold the shooter a shotgun a couple of months before the rampage he went on in Parkland,” Dick’s CEO Ed Stack told Gerry Baker on WSJ at Large.

Although that gun wasn’t the one used in the high-school attack, Stack felt he had to act.

“It was at that point I said, 'We need to stand up and say something, and we need to try to help drive more common-sense gun reform,'” he said. “So that’s what we did.”

Two weeks later, Dick’s raised the minimum age to buy a gun from 18 to 21 at all its retail outlets. It also destroyed $5 million worth of military-style rifles it had in its inventory.

It didn’t take long for the company to feel the effects: Sales plunged.

“We were really thoughtful on how we would go about doing this, and we thought that it would have an impact of about a quarter of a billion dollars on our sales," which amount to more than $8 billion, he said. "And when we got done with that year, it was pretty much what we thought.”

But Stack says the reaction by gun owners to the moves wasn’t as negative as the sales numbers might indicate.

“There's been people who are gun owners who are very upset with us -- and that impacted our business, we knew that it would,” he said.

But there are also gun owners who have told store personnel, "'I agree with what you’ve done.  We continue to support you; we're continuing to do business with you,'" Stack added. "So it's pretty fractured on how people feel.” 

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Stack told FOX Business the cost to the company from from limiting gun sales was worthwhile.

“I’d like to think we’ve moved the conversation [on gun violence] forward,” Stack said

“I think right now -- and a lot of people would agree with this -- there’s not a lot of leadership coming out of Washington,” he said. “And the country’s thirsting for leadership to come from someplace.  And in a lot of cases right now, it’s coming from the private sector.” 

What Stack is hoping for is action from Congress and the White House.

“Today, 90 percent of the American people support expanded background checks, and I don’t know why we can't get that done."

- Ed Stack, Chairman and CEO of Dick’s Sporting Goods

House Democrats passed a bill requiring background checks for gun sales between private parties, which were previously exempt, and "I was one of the CEOs who signed on a letter encouraging them to do that," Stack said. The bill has now moved to the Senate, where it's sitting on Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's desk, he added. "I hope he will bring it to the floor and have a vote and a debate about it.”