A conservative shareholder pressed Dick’s Sporting Goods CEO Edward Stack over the retailer’s decision to tighten rules for gun purchases in its stores.
David Almasi, vice president of the National Center for Public Policy Research, questioned whether the company was “willfully giving up money” with its new policies, he said in remarks during Dick’s annual shareholder meeting. Almasi attended the meeting representing the conservative think-tank’s Free Enterprise Project, which focuses on free-market investor activism.
Dick’s “has damaged its reputation by lending its voice and its resources to those who want to abolish the Second Amendment, even while the vast majority of Americans support the Second Amendment,” Almasi argued. “Thirty percent of American adults own guns, and another 11% live with someone who does. You’ve now alienated them.”
“We did not alienate every gun owner. We did alienate some gun owners. We had a number of people who are gun owners, myself included, who sent us notes saying that, ‘We applaud what you did,’” Stack said, according to a recording of the exchange posted online.
“We think this was in the best interest of our shareholders long term. Did we alienate some customers? Yes, we did. We felt it was the best decision for the long-term aspect of our shareholders. You can see, from our announcement, our stock is actually up double-digits.”
Stack added that Dick’s and its board stands by the decision. “We will not be changing our position,” he said.
Almasi responded by urging Stack to reconsider, suggesting that Dick’s sales could suffer if the NRA and other pro-Second Amendment organizations lead boycotts of the retailer.
Dick’s didn’t immediately respond to a request for further comment.
The Pittsburgh-based sporting goods retailer announced in February that it would raise the minimum age for all gun purchases to 21. Federal law prohibits rifle purchases to anyone under 18 years old. The federal minimum age for handgun purchases is 21.
Dick’s also said it would stop selling “high-capacity magazines,” and it pulled AR-15 rifles from Field & Stream stores. The company previously ceased offering AR-15 rifles in its namesake stores following the Sandy Hook shooting in 2012.
Dick’s was among the first major retailers to restrict gun sales following the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, where 17 people were killed. Walmart and Kroger also set a minimum age of 21 for all gun purchases.
Dick’s has faced pushback from the gun industry. The National Shooting Sports Foundation, a trade group representing retailers and firearm manufacturers, expelled Dick’s from the organization. O.F. Mossberg & Sons, a manufacturer of rifles and shotguns, said it would not accept future orders from Dick’s or Field & Stream stores, noting that the retailer had reportedly hired lobbyists to promote gun-control measures in Congress.
After Dick’s announced its new gun policies, Stack warned analysts in March that some customers unhappy with the decision might abandon its stores. But last month, Dick’s reported quarterly earnings that beat Wall Street’s expectations, as total sales grew 4.6% to $1.91 billion. Demand in other parts of the store offset weakness in the hunting category.
Stack acknowledged during an earnings call that Dick’s doesn’t have a strong relationship with firearms manufacturers, adding that the company’s hunting and firearms business would remain under pressure through the end of the year.
Over the past month, Dick’s stock has surged more than 13%.