National outlets announce new firearm sales restrictions

On Feb. 28, retail giants Walmart, Inc. and DICK’S Sporting Goods announced new restrictions on firearm sales. This includes both companies no longer selling firearms or ammunition to anyone under age 21.

These announcements follow the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida that killed 17 people.

“In light of recent events, we’ve taken an opportunity to review our policy on firearm sales,” Walmart’s statement read.

Walmart stopped sales of modern sporting rifles in 2015 and said that it will also be removing “non lethal airsoft guns and toys” that resembled such firearms from the website.

In the statement by DICK’S, the company said, “We at DICK’S Sporting Goods are deeply disturbed and saddened by the tragic events in Parkland. Our thoughts and prayers are with all of the victims and their loved ones. But thoughts and prayers are not enough.”

The statement also outlined the company’s updated firearms sales limitations:

  • sell assault-style rifles (modern sporting rifles) in all of their Field & Stream stores
  • sell high capacity magazines
  • sell bump stocks (The company never has and “never will” sell these bump stocks)

DICK’S urged for the U.S. government to take action on new regulations, such as banning assault-style firearms, raising the minimum purchase age to 21 years old, universal background checks and closing the “private sale and gun show loophole that waives the necessity of background checks.”

Grocery chain Fred Meyer said the company would also no longer sell firearms and ammunition, according to the Associated Press, though the decision was made based on customer preferences.

It has been reducing its firearm category over the years “due to softening consumer demand,” the company said. After the Parkland shooting, it had also joined Walmart and DICK’S in choosing to not sell firearms to anyone under 21.

There is currently no timeline set for Fred Meyer to phase out its firearms category.

The companies’ decisions have been met with mixed reactions.

“I think if a person is old enough to be held criminally liable for his or her actions, they should be able to own a firearm,” Caleb Martin, an Alaskan gun owner, said.

Martin also said he believes that events such as the Boston Marathon bombing as well as the Columbine High School shooting show that if a person intends to harm the legality of their weapon is of little relevance.

Steven Untiet is a gunsmith and the owner of Alaska Custom Firearms, Inc. He says that Walmart and DICK’S should not have done anything at all.

“Did they break into a school and shoot a bunch of people? Did they… brainwash [Nikolas Cruz] into wanting to do that? Did they have anything to do with it? I don’t think they should’ve done anything,” Untiet said.

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Untiet added that a good guy is what stops a bad guy with harmful intentions.

“There’s gonna be bad people doing bad things no matter what you have floating around in this society, so any of that stuff is pointless and stupid,” Untiet said.

Untiet commends 20-year-old Tyler Watson from Oregon who filed lawsuits against both Walmart and DICK’S after being turned away from purchasing a rifle in their stores. Oregon’s minimum gun purchase age is 18 and Watson alleges that the companies are practicing age discrimination.

“Good for him,” Untiet said. “[The age limit] is not going to stop anything, not going to protect anybody.”

For Marc Robertson, a UAA student and gun owner, the age limit is appropriate, especially since the federal legal age for alcohol is 21 years old.

“It is that way because we’ve established that it’s just a smart idea for people to reach a certain threshold of maturity before they start doing things that have the risk to impact their lives and impact other people’s lives,” Robertson said.

That same rationale should be applied to firearms, Robertson said.

Northern Security Inc. is a company in Anchorage that not only sells firearms and ammunition, but also police and military equipment and accessories.

Becky Rush, one of the owners, says that the company follows state and federal laws, and Walmart and DICK’S are right to make their own decisions.

“They’re right to do what they want to do, just like refusing business to any individual,” Rush said.

Robertson said that Walmart and DICK’S are setting a good example for others and their new policies show “the power of public opinion.” He hopes to see more regulations put in place, including banning high-capacity magazines.

“Those are the principle things I’m hoping to see, just decreased access to weapons that are designed for intense combat by professional soldiers and not civilians that are using these for hunting,” Robertson said.

Untiet is unsure of what other companies might do in response to the Parkland shooting, but he said that there will always be people with bad intentions.

“If you give up freedom for security, you will end up with neither,” Untiet said.

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