The National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) told the Washington Free Beacon its recent decision to expel Dick's Sporting Goods was based on the company's decision to lobby for new gun-control legislation.
"They went beyond simply making decisions for their own company and are trying to impose their view and their decisions on other companies in the industry by hiring a lobbyist to lobby for gun control," Larry Keane, NSSF senior vice president and general counsel, told the Free Beacon. "The CEO of Dick's, which owns Field and Stream, is on the record as saying he wants to see a ban on modern sporting rifles, he wants to see restrictions on magazines, and also wants to see an unconstitutional restriction on the ability of young adults to purchase any firearm."
Keane said that while NSSF did not agree with Dick's decision to remove certain rifles and ammunition magazines from their shelves, the decision was "not because of their internal decision about what products they would and wouldn't sell."
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"We respect the right of companies to make their own decisions," he said.
Instead, he said, the board's decision was based on Dick's new attempt to impose their view on other gun retailers through new gun-control laws.
Dick's Sporting Goods announced on Feb. 28 it would stop selling AR-15s and similar rifles at its Field and Stream stores, which had sold the firearms despite announcing in 2012 the company would no longer do so, and implored "elected officials to enact common sense gun reform." It called for new gun-control measures like a ban on AR-15s, magazines over an unspecified capacity, and a ban on private gun sales on the secondary market without an FBI background check. In May, it was revealed that Dick's had hired lobbyists from the Glover Park Group for "lobbying related to gun control."
The NSSF said Dick's was given an opportunity to address the board before their unanimous vote to expel the chain retailer but chose not to.
"Dick's was given the opportunity by the board to present any statement it wanted the board to consider before it made its decision and Dick's chose not to submit any statement," Keane said. "That's because, I believe, the position the company has taken is indefensible."
The industry group said it would consider allowing Dick's back in if it changed its position lobbying for new gun-control laws but did not think that would happen under the company's current leadership. Keane said he believes Dick's decision to hire gun-control lobbyists is likely to hurt its gun sales and the group had already begun hearing about consumers turning away from the store.
"The public is now aware and consumers will make their own choice about whether to go to Field and Stream stores or whether to go to Dick's," Keane said. "We've heard that the gun counter at Dick's and Filed and Stream are not doing very well as a result of their decision. Hiring a lobbying firm to lobby for gun control is unlikely to help their gun sales, I imagine, but that remains to be seen.
"Just as Dick's can make their own decisions, consumers can make their own decisions about who to spend their money with."