Saving One Life

VoxFairfax has previously offered extended commentary on the duties and responsibilities corporations can exert in improving the societies in which they conduct commerce in goods and services.

Dick’s is a retail sporting goods company with 27 locations in the Commonwealth. In an interview this week, Edward W. Stack, the chief executive of Dick’s, announced that his company had destroyed over $5 million in military-style, semiautomatic rifles and was reviewing whether it would continue to sell guns in its more than 720 stores nationwide.

If we do these things and it saves one life, don’t you think it’s worth it?

“So many people say to me, you know, ‘If we do what you want to do, it’s not going to stop these mass shootings,’” Mr. Stack told CBS. “And my response is: ‘You’re probably right. It won’t. But if we do these things and it saves one life, don’t you think it’s worth it?’”

In 2018, the Center for Disease Control reported the highest fatality rate in decades due to guns–39,773. A recent congressional study found the annual cost of gun violence at $229 billion, arising from lost income, health care for victims, and police and other emergency services. Corporate intervention in limiting guns from common commerce could make a substantial inroad in both the number of fatalities and their costs to society.

Mr. Stack said that he and his wife, Donna, have been weighing the moral consequences of selling firearms patterned on the AR-15 and other military-style weapons since the February 2018 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. The couple had learned that the gunman had bought a gun in a Dick’s store. Although that firearm was not used in the Parkland shooting, which left 17 dead, Mr. Stack and his wife met with survivors in Florida.

In April 2018, Dick’s Sporting Goods, one of the largest firearms sellers in the United States, said it planned to destroy the military-style rifles it had agreed to take off its shelves weeks after the shooting. “I said: ‘You know what? If we really think these things should be off the street, we need to destroy them,’” Mr. Stack said.

In an interview with The Washington Post, Mr. Stack criticized Senator Mitch McConnell, the Republican majority leader, for dragging his feet on gun control legislation.

Previously, the Pennsylvania retailer had also agreed to ban the sale of military-style rifles at its 35 Field & Stream stores, and to stop selling firearms and ammunition to anyone younger than 21.

In August, Dick’s announced that same store sales increased 3.2 percent in the second quarter.

Mr. Stack told CBS that the restricted sales cost the company a quarter of a billion dollars. Despite the shift in strategy, the company has seen signs of improvement. In August, Dick’s announced that same store sales increased 3.2 percent in the second quarter.  These results mark the profound effect corporate social responsibility can have, demonstrating that short term losses, while disappointing to the hungry profit appetite of some investors and shareholders, generate longer term returns especially in customer appreciation and community good will.

Since the massacre in Parkland, corporations have responded to the public’s growing demand for gun control measures. Among them are Walmart, the nation’s largest gun seller; L.L. Bean; and Kroger, which said in 2018 it would restrict gun sales at its Fred Meyer stores. Dick’s, though, has been one of the most proactive.

“I don’t understand how somebody, with everything that’s gone on, could actually sit there and say, ‘I don’t think we need to do a background check on people who buy guns,’” Mr. Stack said. “It’s just, it’s ridiculous.”

Mr. Stack told CBS he had already removed all guns from more than 100 Dick’s stores and was considering expanding the ban to the rest of them. “We’ve got the whole category under strategic review to see what we’re going to do,” he said.

Categories: gun control, Issues, Local, National

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