British Columbia

'Everything seems to be politicized these days:' MEC boycott misguided, says firearms safety instructor

A B.C. firearms safety instructor believes Mountain Equipment Co-op will alienate many customers if it drops products linked to a major U.S. ammunition and gun manufacturer.

More than 40,000 people have signed petition calling on retailer to stop selling Vista-owned brands

A U.S. salesman clears the chamber of an AR-15 at the Ready Gunner gun store In Provo, Utah. The AR-15 is one of the guns that the Vista Outdoor company manufactures. (George Frey/Reuters)

A B.C. firearms safety instructor believes Mountain Equipment Co-op will alienate many customers if it drops products linked to a major U.S. ammunition and gun manufacturer.

More than 40,000 people have signed a petition calling on MEC to stop selling brands like Camelbak and Giro, which are owned by Vista Outdoor Inc. The company also makes guns, including semi-automatic rifles similar to the AR-15.

Eddie Banner, a firearms instructor based in Victoria, thinks dropping these brands would be a mistake.   

"No matter which direction they take, they will end up upsetting people but I'm glad so far they've taken the time to consider other angles. They haven't been too hasty," Banner told On The Coast host Gloria Macarenko.

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

Polarizing the market

Banner said dropping these brands could alienate two large groups of shoppers.

On one hand, there are the hunting and shooting sports enthusiasts — a market whose size is underestimated, he said. There are also consumers who don't want MEC to become politicized, Banner added.

"The most popular response I'm getting is that everything seems to be politicized these days," he said.

Banner said he set up several polls on social media, and found "many businesses are taking political sides and a lot of people are finding this frustrating.

"Those customers can vote with their wallets essentially."

 'The pit bull of firearms'

He thinks that the debate comes down to a lack of understanding about firearms, and ones like the AR-15 in particular, which was used in the Parkland, Fla., school shooting.

"The AR-15 is quite a misunderstood rifle," he said. "It's almost like the pitbull of firearms in many ways. It gets lots of undeserved negative press much like pit bulls when it's not really the animal or firearm in question.

"It's how… the people responsible for them how they behave that's really key."

The highly emotional response from the public over the revelation that MEC products are linked to Vista is understandable, said Banner, but he disagrees with the boycott, describing it as extreme.

He pointed to another outdoor gear brand, Black Diamond, which falls under the parent company, Clarus. That company makes bullets — including ammunition for semi-automatic rifles — under the brand Sierra.

Eddie Banner, firearms safety instructor based in Victoria, B.C., noted that brands like Black Diamond, Honeywell and General Electric are also being associated with weapons and ammunition production. (Facebook)

He noted Honeywell and General Electric are household names that manufacture missiles, "and yet people aren't calling to boycott those companies and those products."

"This call for a boycott because of political reasons is perhaps a little misguided."

To hear the full interview listen to media below:

With files from On The Coast