'Lots of diverse opinions': MEC to decide whether to drop outdoor brands owned by U.S. gun manufacturer

Mountain Equipment Co-op's senior management says they will have more information Tuesday in response to a social media outcry about their stocking of brands owned by a major U.S. ammunition and gun manufacturer.

Vista — owner of Bushnell, CamelBak and Bollé — also manufactures guns and ammunition

Vancouver-based Mountain Equipment Co-op is facing calls to drop brands produced by a major U.S. manufacturer of guns and ammunition. (Tristan Le Rudulier/CBC)

Mountain Equipment Co-op says it is trying to decide how to respond to a social media outcry calling on the retailer to drop popular brands made by a major U.S. ammunition and gun manufacturer.

In a statement issued Monday evening, the Vancouver-based outdoor apparel and goods chain said it spent Monday listening to members through email, telephone and social media.

The company asked members to check back Tuesday, but offered no immediate decision.

"We're hearing lots of diverse opinions on this topic," MEC said in a statement posted on Twitter.

'Urgent ethical obligation'

Mountain Equipment Co-op, a consumer-owned co-operative which has five million members and 22 stores across the country, sells several Vista Outdoor Inc.-owned brands, including Bushnell, CamelBak and Bollé.

But Utah-based Vista also makes ammunition and owns Savage Arms, which sells multiple semi-automatic rifles. Those are similar to the type of rifle a shooter used earlier this month to kill 17 people at a Parkland, Fla., school.

While MEC doesn't sell firearms, it does stock helmets, sunglasses and other outdoor goods Vista makes.

A Change.org petition calls on the retailer to stop carrying the brands.

"Given the recent massacre of high school students in Parkland, Fla., MEC is facing an urgent ethical obligation: to act in accordance with its 'mission and values,'" reads the petition.

The company's mission and values include seeking "to motivate other individuals and organizations to act for people and the planet."

'We have to weigh this very carefully'

CEO David Labistour said MEC will be looking more carefully at potential risks involved with larger holding companies it deals with.

"We've always believed in having all the details and all the information before making a decision," Labistour said in an interview late Monday.

"These decisions are going to offend someone somewhere because what we know through our social media feed is that not everyone is of the same opinion, so we have to weigh this very carefully and make sure that we make a decision that's consistent with our membership and the values of the organizations."

Tim Southam, public affairs manager at MEC, said ownership patterns in the outdoor industry are changing as more large players have come into the space and bought up what were formerly independent brands.

"Camelbak, for example, our relationship goes back to 2009 before Vista Outdoors even existed as a company," Southam added. "These are relationships with individual brands that in some cases go back many years.

"Our sourcing practices have been squarely focused on MEC's label and environmental consideration and kind of the larger political economy questions have not come into play. And what this situation underscores is that we need to dig into them more to have a better understanding."

'A direct connection'

In its statement, MEC said that while many members want the company to immediately drop the Vista brands, many others disagree. Some members "still want to be able to buy brands like CamelBak at MEC," and "think purchasing decisions should be up to individual consumers."

The company said some members have questioned whether boycotting the MEC products will impact gun violence, noting that membership includes hunters and sport shooters.

Vancouverite Richard Campbell said he hopes other Canadian sports stores will also stop carrying the products. The 53-year-old said he learned last week about the connection between Vista — which lists the National Rifle Association (NRA) on its Partners page — and firearms.

"The company is directly involved in U.S. politics," he said. "It gives funding to the NRA and other gun advocacy groups and they also make some weapons and ammo that are not that responsible."

"It's actually money from sales of products in Canada that is helping to fund this company in giving donations and other support to these lobby groups, so there's really a direct connection to that."

Vista did not immediately responded to a request for comment.​

Corrections

  • A previous version of this story listed two products which are not sold by Mountain Equipment Co-op.
    Feb 26, 2018 3:36 PM PT

with files from Canadian Press

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