Dick's Sporting Goods will no longer sell assault weapons

Dick's Sporting Goods says it is ending sales of assault-style rifles in its stores and won't sell guns to anyone under 21 years old following the massacre two weeks ago in Parkland, Fla.

Parkland, Fla., shooting accused bought a weapon at Dick's, but chain will change its policy

Nikolas Cruz, the 19-year-old charged in the Florida high school shooting, bought a gun at a Dick's Sporting Goods store, but the large retail chain says it will no longer sell the type of weapon used in Parkland, or sell any guns or ammunition, to anyone under 21. (Victor J. Blue/Bloomberg)

Dick's Sporting Goods says it will no longer sell assault weapons in any of its stores, or sell any type of firearm to anyone under 21.

The move comes after the attack on a high school in Parkland, Fla., on Feb. 14 in which 17 people were killed by a gunman who used an AR-15 assault rifle. Nikolas Cruz, a 19-year-old former student, has been charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder.

The sporting goods chain made the announcement on Good Morning America on Wednesday, with CEO Edward Stack — son of the chain's founder, Dick Stack — saying the company felt compelled to act.

"As we looked at what happened down in Parkland, we were so disturbed and saddened," Stack told the program, "we felt we really needed to do something [so] we've decided not to sell these assault weapons any longer in any of our stores."

'We will no longer sell assault-type rifles,' says CEO Edward Stack of Dick's Sporting Goods 1:17

It's not immediately clear how big an impact the move will have on the sale of such weapons, since firearms sales are fragmented across numerous chains, online stores and gun shows. 

The world's largest retailer, Walmart, stopped selling AR-15 rifles and other semi-automatic weapons in 2015, citing weak sales. On Wednesday evening, Walmart said it will no longer sell firearms and ammunition to people younger than 21, and is also removing items resembling assault-style rifles from its website.

With 675 stores across the country, Pittsburgh-based Dick's is a major player in the sports and leisure industry, but Joseph Feldman, a senior managing director at the Telsey Advisory Group, estimates that it's unlikely that assault-style rifles covered under the new policy make up a large part of their business, which took in almost $8 billion US in revenue last year.

He reckons that the entire hunting category — which would include all kinds of firearms, other weapons and hunting accoutrements — makes up less than 10 per cent of their entire revenue.

"The longer-term positive perception that they create a more welcoming environment will offset any lost sales in the year," Feldman said.

Stack said that after the attack, the company checked its sales records and discovered that Cruz bought a shotgun from Dick's last November, but it was not the weapon used in the Parkland shooting.

CBC's Paul Hunter on Dick's Sporting Goods no longer selling assault weapons 2:48

While all existing rules were followed in that sale, Stack said he wanted to ensure the chain wouldn't be associated with any future massacres, so it changed its policy.

"It moved us all unimaginably," Stack said of the shooting, specifically the victims and the actions of survivors in the aftermath. "We don't want to be a part of this story."

The chain implemented a similar policy after the 2012 Sandy Hook school attack in Newtown, Conn., where an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle was also used. That ban was temporary and the chain soon started selling the guns again at its hunting-specific chain, Field & Stream.

This time, the changes will be permanent, Stack said. He added the company is prepared for any potential backlash, but will not change its new policy on assault-style weapons "ever."

The company will also refuse to sell so-called bump stocks — devices that can be attached to weapons to give them the firing capacity of automatic weapons.

Meghan Roberts on the Canadian banks connected to U.S. gun manufacturers 2:40

Dick's will also stop selling guns of any kind to anyone under 21 years old, along with high-capacity magazines to anyone.

The company also urged lawmakers to follow up with what it calls "common sense gun reform" and pass legislation to make the moves Dick's made on Wednesday mandatory for all companies that sell firearms.

With files from The Associated Press