ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
Since the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida two weeks ago, a number of companies have taken a position in the debate over guns. Many severed ties with the National Rifle Association.
AILSA CHANG, HOST:
Today Walmart said it would raise the age to buy guns and ammunition to 21. That decision came the same day Dick's Sporting Goods announced it's no longer selling assault-style rifles like the one used in the high school shooting at any of its stores. That includes all Dick's stores and Field & Stream stores. It's not selling high-capacity magazines either, and it's also setting a minimum age of 21 to buy other firearms.
SHAPIRO: CEO Ed Stack went on ABC's "Good Morning America" to explain why.
(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "GOOD MORNING AMERICA")
ED STACK: We're staunch supporters of the Second Amendment. I'm a gun owner myself. But we've just decided that based on what's happened and with these guns, we don't want to be a part of this story. And we've eliminated these guns permanently.
SHAPIRO: Some customers today cheered the move. We caught up with Christina Reveir in Boise, Idaho.
CHRISTINA REVEIR: You know, I grew up around guns, and my family has guns. But I definitely don't think that anyone needs an assault rifle.
CHANG: Others said the company's announcement wouldn't stop violent crime. Here's Bruce Dickinson in Elmira, N.Y.
BRUCE DICKINSON: You can put down on paper anything you want. Somebody wants to get a gun, they're going to get a gun. If they're out there, they can find it. They can get it.
SHAPIRO: And other Dick's customers shrugged. Todd Jameson of Macon, Ga., says he has lots of guns, including multiple assault-style rifles. But...
TODD JAMESON: It's their opinion. It's their store. If they want to carry them, great. If not, that's up to them.
CHANG: Joining us now to talk about these developments today is NPR's Uri Berliner. Hey, Uri.
URI BERLINER, BYLINE: Hi, Ailsa.
CHANG: So I want to start with this move by Walmart. Do you think Dick's Sporting Goods' announcement this morning pressured Walmart to act the very same day?
BERLINER: Well, it's certainly notable that they did it on the same day. They could have done this at any other time.
BERLINER: But they did it today right after this very dramatic announcement by Dick's Sporting Goods this morning.
CHANG: But the news about Walmart is in a way a bigger deal because it has the power to move the market in a way that Dick's does not, right?
BERLINER: Yeah. I mean, Walmart - whenever Walmart does something, people pay attention. It's the biggest retailer in America. Walmart has hundreds and hundreds of stores. People shop in Walmart every day. When Walmart speaks, people pay attention. And it's notable.
CHANG: We should note that three years ago, Walmart had already ended its sales of modern sporting rifles, including the AR-15. Why was that? Why did it do that three years ago?
BERLINER: Well, they said they did it because of softening demand and that they were going to sell more hunting rifles and those kinds of things. But Walmart was also under pressure from a shareholder to stop selling those kinds of assault-style rifles.
CHANG: All right, I want to get to Dick's Sporting Goods' announcement, too. After Sandy Hook, Dick's removed all assault-style rifles from its main stores, but they just ended up selling those guns at Field & Stream stores, which they own. Today, however, Ed Stack, the CEO of Dick's - he said that the changes that they are making today are going to be across the company and permanent. Why do you think the Parkland shooting was the tipping point and not Sandy Hook?
BERLINER: Well, he directly said that it was about the kids and their response to this horrific violence and their response to gun violence in general. You know, what he said - when we take a look at those kids and the parents and the heroes in the school, what they did, our view was if the kids can be brave enough to organize like this, we can be brave enough to take these out of here. He also said about the kids, we heard you. The nation has heard you.
CHANG: Stack had also said this morning that Dick's is ready for a backlash. I mean, do you think they should be expecting a backlash from the gun rights side?
BERLINER: That's likely. Today, though, if you were - they were looking for an investor backlash, they didn't get it. Dick's stock price closed up a bit today. So it wasn't like investors were saying, this company is in a lot of trouble; were selling. That didn't happen.
CHANG: If that's the case - that Dick's maybe doesn't ultimately see a huge financial loss because of the decision today, are these decisions by both Walmart and by Dick's business-driven decisions, meaning what's good politically is ultimately fine for business?
BERLINER: It's hard to say really what the primary motivation is, but corporate CEOs don't do things that materially harm their company financially. They just don't do that. We don't know exactly how much of Dick's revenues, its sales come from the sales of firearms. It's certainly less than half - significantly less than half and assault-style rifles much less than that. So those sales probably aren't going to have a big impact on the overall bottom line of the company. The question is, is there going to be a backlash from customers, from customers who are NRA members? That's the key thing.
CHANG: All right, that's NPR's Uri Berliner. Thank you, Uri.
BERLINER: Thank you, Ailsa.
CHANG: And special thanks to member station WSKG, Boise State Public Radio and Georgia Public Broadcasting for contributing to this report.
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