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Commentary: A Visit to 2 Stores that Sell Firearms

BOARDMAN, Ohio – “There’s no such thing as an assault weapon,” a clerk at Fin Feather Fur Outfitters said this morning as he halted my inquiries and walked away.

As I quickly surmised, gun enthusiasts consider the term assault weapon a political pejorative, made up by those who would weaken the Second Amendment by banning their sale. Instead, the proper term is an AR-15 rifle, a second clerk educated me.

My visit – the first time I was ever inside the store or ever looked at any display of firearms – took place shortly after the sporting goods store opened and just a few hours after its nearby competitor fired a political salvo in the gun debate.

Eight would-be customers were already there, checking out at the long guns hanging across the full length of the Fin Feather Fur’s rear wall and the handguns inside the equally long display case. Tacked up on the wall I saw a poster urging customers to “Join the NRA today” and get discounted membership rates.

“Right now we’re selling a lot of AR-15s because of what’s going on,” the second clerk said. “Any other time we sell mostly handguns.”

I knew better than to ask the clerk’s name or the name of a young man who was filling out paperwork to buy an AR-15.

“I would rather have one before I can’t get one,” the customer said. “I’ve been wanting one and this is the time to do it.”

The customer, who looks barely 21 if he is that old, explained he was buying an AR-15 “to defend myself, if need be. The plan is not to use it.”

Fin Feather Fur Outfitters operates just five stores, all in Ohio. The company was founded in 1985 in Ashland, inside “a small cinder block building,” its website states. The Boardman store was built in 2014 and is the company’s largest satellite location.

By comparison, Dick’s Sporting Goods, which today announced it will no longer sell assault-style rifles, operates 715 stores across the country. The Pittsburgh-based company, founded in 1948 in Findlay, operates a store in Boardman, a quarter mile or so west on U.S. Route 224 from Fin Fur Feather.

When I got there shortly after it opened this morning, there were no customers at the firearms counter. And a clerk there looked at me incredulously as I asked about the AR-15. My reporter’s instinct was that I might see workers removing them from the shelves.

Instead, I learned that Dick’s does not sell AR-15s at the Boardman store, nor does it sell high capacity magazines — and hasn’t since the Sandy Hook school massacre.

A quick search on my phone showed a statement today from the chairman and CEO of Dick’s Sporting Goods, Edward W. Stack. What’s new is that Dick’s is now removing AR-15s from its 35 Field & Stream stores. And as of today, none of its stores will sell firearms to individuals under the age of 21.

Obviously, the CEO of Dick’s understands that those who want those types of firearms will go to Fin Fur Feather and other stores to buy them. But in his statement, Stack entered the political fray and “implore[d] our elected officials to enact common sense gun reform and pass the following regulations:

  • Ban assault-style firearms;
  • Raise the minimum age to purchase firearms to 21;
  • Ban high-capacity magazines and bump stocks;
  • Require universal background checks that include relevant mental health information and previous interactions with the law;
  • Ensure a complete universal database of those banned from buying firearms;
  • Close the private sale and gun show loophole that waives the necessity of background checks.

At noon today, the CEO’s announcement remained among the day’s top stories.

Reported the Washington Post, “Stack’s announcement carried both symbolic and retail heft as companies — including sporting goods stores and airlines — have been pressured to drop special discounts and other ties to the gun industry and the National Rifle Association.”

But at what cost? Will there be a push-back from NRA members who will stop patronizing Dick’s (and all the other companies that have ended affinity programs)?

At the same time, there are more reports about how “pressure is mounting on Wall Street to do something about gun control.”

A check of the stock price of Strum Ruger & Co., one of the largest manufacturers of firearms in the United States, found it dipped about 2.5% at mid-morning but began to climb back up to $44.95 per share at 12:45 p.m., down $1 from its open this morning.

As for the share price of Dick’s Sporting Goods, it fell 0.7% at 10 a.m. and as of 12:55 was trading at 0.68% below its opening price of $32.48.

All of which means some things have changed but not much.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.