In absence of legislation, large stores tighten gun sale policies

- Walmart joins Dick's sporting goods stores in changing their gun sale policies amid public outcry for legislation mandates.

Both nationwide retailers made the announcements Wednesday. Most notably, both stores are raising their minimum age to purchase a firearm to 21. 

Dick's and Walmart both stopped selling AR-15s and similar sporting rifles in their stores after the Sandy Hook shooting. 

Dick's says it will now remove such weapons from its Field and Stream stores, as well.

Walmart says it does not sell handguns, bump stocks, or high capacity magazines.

Dick's says it will discontinue sales of high capacity magazines and has never sold bump stocks.

Walmart added it would update its eCommerce platform to reflect the changes. It will also discontinue the sale of items that resemble assault-style firearms, including nonlethal airsoft guns and toys.

Walmart's statement read, in part:

"We take seriously our obligation to be a responsible seller of firearms and go beyond federal law by requiring customers to pass a background check before purchasing any firearm... Our heritage as a company has always been in serving sportsmen and hunters, and we will continue to do so in a responsible way."

In its statement earlier Wednesday, Dick's insisted lawmakers pass broad gun reform measures, including a universal background check system. The Dick's statement went further, saying it believes "this country's most precious gift is our children." 

The statement added: 

"Some will say these steps can't guarantee tragedies like Parkland will never happen again. They may be correct - but if common sense reform is enacted and even one life is saved, it will have been worth it."

Dick's and Walmart are not the only companies to test whether its bottom line will be impacted by a firmer stance on guns. 

Within hours of its announcement, Dick's social media profiles were filled with responses on both sides.

"I'll be shopping there more," one user said.

Another posted, "never again."

Bill Carlson, a public relations executive at Tampa-based Tucker Hall says social media has magnified customers' views.

"We have seen, in the past, campaigns gradually have an impact," said Carlson. "This one is having an enormous impact right away."

Parkland's aftermath seems to confirm we live in a politically-driven economy, making it difficult for some companies to remain quiet.

Delta Airlines and others ended discount programs for NRA members.

FedEx, meanwhile, kept its program. 

Carlson says many companies do not want to risk alienating the next generation of potential customers - young people who seem to be firmly on the side of gun control legislation.

"If they disagree with the values of the company or the brand, they won't do business with that company, and may not ever do business with it," said Carlson.

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