Out­doors stores qui­etly con­tinue to sell as­sault weapons af­ter Park­land

Ripon Bulletin - - Nation -

DUNDEE, Mich. (AP) — Some big re­tail­ers have curbed sales of as­sault weapons af­ter last month’s school shoot­ing in Florida. But oth­ers are stick­ing to their guns.

Sev­eral out­door chains, in­clud­ing Bass Pro Shops, Ca­bela’s, Gan­der Out­doors and Academy Sports, con­tinue to sell as­sault-style ri­fles on­line and in stores as part of their mix of hunt­ing equip­ment. The de­ci­sion is in stark con­trast to Dick’s Sport­ing Goods, which re­cently banned sales of as­sault ri­fles, and Wal­mart, which stopped car­ry­ing as­sault ri­fles in 2015 but says it will no longer sell guns or am­mu­ni­tion to any­one un­der 21.

Out­door stores are try­ing to stay un­der the radar in this po­lit­i­cally charged cli­mate. Bass Pro Sports — which owns Ca­bela’s — and the firms that own Gan­der Out­doors and Academy Sports didn’t re­spond to re­quests for com­ment from The As­so­ci­ated Press. But the stores have clearly made the cal­cu­la­tion that they could lose more than they might gain by tak­ing a stand against as­sault-style weapons.

“They’re not in­ter­ested in be­ing cul­tural war­riors and they’re prob­a­bly try­ing to wait it out,” says Raphael Thomad­sen, an as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor of mar­ket­ing at the Olin Busi­ness School at Wash­ing­ton Univer­sity in St. Louis. “Not every­one wants to be at the cen­ter of this thing.”

Out­door stores are in a tough po­si­tion. Hunters ac­count for a large part of their bot­tom lines and any steps to curb gun sales could alien­ate loyal cus­tomers like Sherry Lin­damood, who was shop­ping with her tod­dler grand­daugh­ter last week at a Ca­bela’s in Dundee, Michi­gan, a ru­ral com­mu­nity about an hour south­west of Detroit.

“I don’t think our rights should be im­peached be­cause of the wrong­do­ings of oth­ers,” said Lin­damood, who owns a hand­gun. Lin­damood said she doesn’t like as­sault ri­fles, but thinks Ca­bela’s has a right to sell them.

A ca­sual look around Ca­bela’s re­vealed the strength of the store’s gun busi­ness. There weren’t many peo­ple brows­ing the cloth­ing racks or the camp­ing equip­ment in the 225,000-square-foot store, which has its own in­door fish pond and dozens of taxi­der­mic an­i­mals in a multi-story dis­play. But in the first-floor gun de­part­ment, a sign be­hind the counter showed 13 peo­ple wait­ing to be helped. The de­part­ment even has its own check-out area.

Terry Hiske, a for­mer en­vi­ron­men­tal of­fi­cial for the state, was shop­ping for a new fish finder at the store. He said it doesn’t bother him that Ca­bela’s sells as­sault weapons, be­cause he sees a lim­ited use for them. Hiske him­self owns a gun and oc­ca­sion­ally hunts deer, but he doesn’t own an as­sault weapon.

“Un­for­tu­nately it’s usu­ally the idiots who are buy­ing them, who like the big­gest toy pos­si­ble,” he said.

Most gun buy­ers make their pur­chases at in­de­pen­dent shops, not big re­tail­ers, ac­cord­ing to the Na­tional Shoot­ing Sports Fed­er­a­tion, an ad­vo­cacy group. In 2016, big box stores like Bass Pro Shops or Dick’s sold around 23 per­cent of tra­di­tional hunt­ing ri­fles and 12 per­cent of as­sault-style ri­fles, which are dubbed “mod­ern sport­ing ri­fles” in the in­dus­try.

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