ShareThis Page

Dick's Sporting Goods suspends some gun sales due to school shooting

| Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2012, 10:50 a.m.
Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review
Eric Shaffer, 15, of Adrian looks over .22 caliber semi-automatic rifles at Sportsman's Supply in Butler on December 18, 2012. Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review
Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review
Jake Burdett, 21, of Kittanning looks over .22 caliber semi-automatic rifles at Sportsman's Supply in Butler on December 18, 2012. Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review
Getty Images
A school bus passes by St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church on Monday while mourners gather for a funeral service for shooting victim Jessica Rekos, 6, in Newtown, Conn. Four days after 20 children and six adults were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School, most students in Newtown returned to school. Getty Images

Dick's Sporting Goods Inc. pulled some firearms from hundreds of stores nationwide on Tuesday in response to last week's school shooting in Connecticut, but no other major gun retailers said they would follow suit.

The Findlay-based chain said it suspended sales of what it called “modern sporting rifles” from its more than 500 locations in 44 states out of respect for the victims and their families in the school massacre. Dick's also announced it removed all guns from sales areas at its store closest to Newtown, Conn.

Dick's officials provided few details on which weapons it was pulling as politicians and pundits continued to discuss whether the slayings should spur changes in gun laws.

Dick's officials would not say how long the firearms would remain unavailable. Authorities say many of the 27 victims of gunman Adam Lanza, who later shot and killed himself, were shot with a .223-caliber Bushmaster semi-automatic rifle.

“We are extremely saddened by the unspeakable tragedy,” Dick's officials said in a prepared statement, “... Our hearts go out to the victims and their families, and to the entire community.”

Wal-Mart removed from its website an information page about the Bushmaster rifle, citing “recent tragic events.” But the Arkansas-based company, the nation's largest retailer, does not sell guns online and made no changes to its in-store firearms merchandise, spokesman Kory Lundberg said.

Officials with other major firearms retailers in Western Pennsylvania, including Cabela's, Dunham's Sports, Gander Mountain and Ace Sporting Goods, did not return calls or emails seeking comment on their plans.

Private equity group Cerberus Capital Management announced it would sell Freedom Group, the gun company that makes Bushmaster models. The father of Cerberus founder Stephen Feinberg lives about six miles from the massacre site.

At Sportsman's Supply Inc. in Butler, President Grant Williams said firearms do not appear to be a primary revenue source for Dick's. Suspending some gun sales probably made sense for that company, he said.

But nearly all customers at Sportsman's Supply are shooters, Williams said. He said the business has no plans to change its inventory, which lists some semi-automatic weapons.

Williams said the Newtown massacre “was committed not by a firearm but by a mentally disturbed person who merely chose the firearm as a means to carry out what he was going to do, anyway.”

“We feel horrified by what happened, but we do not place blame with the weapon,” he said.

At Fazi Firearms in Plum, owner Bill Fazi said he sells and knows people who shoot competitively with military-style rifles. The high-powered firearms, the target of a 10-year federal ban that expired in 2004, could be banned anew under legislation promised by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat, that the White House said President Obama would support.

Fazi is “highly sensitive” to deaths from misused guns, he said. But he added that “we don't intend to buckle under to whatever's going on with the media.”

“We will sell all legally obtained weapons until otherwise mandated. No question about that,” Fazi said.

The National Association of Federally Licensed Firearms Dealers and the Professional Gun Retailers Association take no position on whether stores should change their inventory, said Andrew Molchan, director of both organizations. He said the Florida-based associations have a couple thousand members.

Dick's might have removed select rifles primarily as a public-relations effort, he said.

“Not to be cynical, but it's not like they're making this horrendous sacrifice,” Molchan said. He supports arming teachers “if you want protection in the schools.”

Fazi said he found irony in some reactions to the Newtown massacre.

“When these things happen, people become heightened in their concern and end up purchasing weapons directly as a result of the media, which I think is counterproductive and foolish,” he said. “If you want to buy a gun, make your own decision. Don't let the TV tell you what to do.”

Adam Smeltz is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5676 or

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.