Walmart, Dick's place age restrictions on firearms, ammunition purchases

The debate over access to guns has reached the corporate board room. Executives with two national chains – Dick’s Sporting Goods and Walmart – say they’re making major changes to their purchasing policies.

“It’s good to see a big store like dick’s stepping up,” said customer Gerald Castro.

That corporate stride forward to help control who can legally own a gun comes after immense social pressure. From schools to state houses to Capitol Hill, gun control now dominates the national conversation. Wednesday Dick’s Sporting Goods announced an immediate end to in-store sales of assault-style riffles and high-capacity magazines. It will also raise the minimum gun purchase age to 21. The move follows Florida’s mass shooting two weeks ago.

“Looking at those kids an those parents…it moved us all unimaginably and to think about the loss and grief. we decided to get those guns out of our store permanently,” said Dick’s Sporting Good CEO Edward Stack.

Hours later, Walmart, the nation’s largest gun seller, said it too would raise the minimum firearms purchase age to 21, and that it would not sell toys and air guns resembling assault riffles. “We take seriously our obligation to be a responsible seller of firearms,” the company said in a lengthy 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.”

“If you can go out and buy a gun, but you can’t be a lottery ticket, you can’t by alcohol, but you can by a gun? There’s something wrong with the system,” said customer Nanette Lopez, as she stood with her family outside a Dick’s store in South San Jose.

Many customers outside the store were largely supportive of the corporate moves, but some worry a uniform approach isn’t quite right either.

“Let’s gather together as a group of people and be proactive about what’s going on in our community. And not have to change rules for the entire world,” said James Smith, shortly after he purchased a paintball pistol from Dick’s.

Business experts say the wave of public opinion coupled with a mix of emotions and concerns in the board room, could push more companies to follow the leaders, and change their gun purchase policies as well.

“No body wants to be the guy that sold the gun that shot up the next school,” said Dr. Robert Chapman Wood, a professor of business strategic management at San Jose State University.

And fear of the next time may be the biggest motivating factor as Americans wrestle with how and for whom the right to bear arms applies. 

“I’m not willing to give up any of my freedoms for security. But at the same time I just don’t want to see those poor kids going through that again, you know,” said Dick’s Sporting Goods customer Emilio Lopez.

While many people applauded the actions taken by Walmart and Dick’s, some say they’ll boycott the stores. Even so, Dick’s stock closed up slightly on trading today.