NEW YORK—Dick's Sporting Goods and Walmart took steps yesterday to restrict gun sales, adding two retail heavyweights to the growing rift between corporate America and the gun lobby.
Dick's said it immediately will stop selling assault-style rifles and ban the sale of all guns to anyone under 21.
Its CEO took on the National Rifle Association by demanding tougher gun laws after the massacre in Florida.
Walmart, the nation's largest retailer, followed late yesterday saying it no longer will sell firearms and ammunition to people younger than 21.
It had stopped selling AR-15s and other semi-automatic weapons in 2015, citing weak sales.
The announcements from the major national retailers came as students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. returned to class for the first time since a teenager killed 17 students and educators with an AR-15 rifle two weeks ago.
“When we saw what the kids were going through, and the grief of the parents and the kids who were killed in Parkland, we felt we needed to do something," Dick's chairman and CEO Ed Stack said on ABC's "Good Morning America.”
Several major corporations, including MetLife, Hertz, and Delta Air Lines, have cut ties with the NRA since the Florida tragedy.
None of them were retailers who sold guns.
Sporting goods chain Bass Pro Shops, which owns Cabela's, didn't respond to requests for comment.
Nor did the Outdoor Retail Association or Gander Outdoors.
The announcements from Dick's and Walmart drew hundreds of thousands of responses for and against the moves on the companies' social media accounts.
Dick Sporting Goods had cut off sales of assault-style weapons after the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.
But sales had resumed at its smaller chain of Field & Stream stores, which consisted of 35 outlets in 16 states as of October.
Yesterday, Stack said that would end, and he called on lawmakers to act now.
He urged them to ban assault-style firearms, bump stocks, and high-capacity magazines, as well as raise the minimum age to buy firearms to 21.
He said universal background checks should be required, and there should be a complete database of those banned from buying firearms.
He also called for the closing of the private sale and gun show loophole that enables purchasers to escape background checks.
“We support and respect the Second Amendment, and we recognize and appreciate that the vast majority of gun owners in this country are responsible, law-abiding citizens,” Stack said in a letter.
“But we have to help solve the problem that's in front of us,” he stressed.
“Gun violence is an epidemic that's taking the lives of too many people, including the brightest hope for the future of America—our kids.”
Walmart said it also was removing items from its website that resemble assault-style rifles, including airsoft guns and toys.
“Our heritage as a company has always been in serving sportsmen and hunters, and we will continue to do so in a responsible way,” Walmart noted.
One industry analyst said other retailers that devote a small percentage of their business to hunting probably will follow suit.
While guns can be bought from sporting goods stores or department stores, they also can be purchased online, at gun shows, and from small local gun stores.
The NRA has pushed back aggressively against calls for raising age limits for guns or restricting the sale of assault-style weapons.
Calls to the NRA were not immediately returned.