Solving gun violence will take time | News, Sports, Jobs
Remember the name Ed Stack. As CEO of Dick’s Sporting Goods, a nationwide chain of 727 stores, he has shown more leadership in trying to address the problem of gun violence in the country than all the politicians in Washington combined. Stack doesn’t just talk, he walks the path of citizen participation — even though it’s cost his business dearly.
In February 2018, Stack couldn’t come off the news in the wake of the fatal shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida. He saw surviving students and their parents speak to reporters about the 17 dead and the emotional scars the mass shooting had left on the community.
Stack says the event, perpetrated by a mentally ill 19-year-old former student carrying two semi-automatic rifles, had a “deep effect” on him.
“I’m a pretty stoic guy” he recently told the New York Times. “But I was sitting there hearing about the children who had been killed, and I hadn’t cried much since my mother died. We have to do something. This must stop.
Within days, Stack did something. He ordered Dick’s Sporting Goods stores to stop selling all assault rifles. He further ordered store managers to stop selling high-capacity ammunition magazines and to refuse to sell weapons to anyone under the age of 21, regardless of local laws imposed.
Then Stack did the unthinkable by taking a multi-million dollar hit to its bottom line. Instead of returning his store’s inventory of assault rifles and their accessories for a refund, Stack ordered all weapons destroyed.
He reported a loss of $5 million, but decided destruction was a better decision than returning the guns to resell to potential criminals. He just didn’t want to be part of it.
Following Stack’s lead, in 2018 Walmart CEO Doug McMillon announced that his stores would no longer sell guns or bullets to anyone under the age of 21.
In September 2019, after two fatal shootings at Walmart stores, McMillon announced three major changes: Walmart would stop selling rifle ammunition used in military-style weapons, it would stop selling handgun ammunition, and Walmart stores in Alaska would stop selling handguns, marking a “full exit” of all handgun sales.
Stack’s leadership on this issue has me wondering: what if senior executives at major gun outlets take similar positions? What if they also decided that they didn’t want weapons ending up in the hands of disturbed individuals? What if this idea of putting public safety before profits leads to a tendency to sell guns in a limited number of outlets? What if thorough background and age checks were done before every purchase? What if a federal law were passed requiring all states to maintain lists of citizens with violent mental health issues so the information could be shared with those conducting background checks? What if it was illegal to buy a gun or ammunition over the Internet?
It’s a lot of “and if,” right? Look, the position that Stack has taken won’t completely solve the problem of gun misuse. But we need to make public safety the top priority and find a way to do that without infringing on anyone’s 2nd Amendment rights.
Reducing the number of places where a disturbed or criminally-minded person can buy ammunition and weapons is a positive step in all respects. To those who believe these baby steps don’t make sense, I say they don’t.
The opposing view, of course, is the response of gun rights advocates, the NRA in particular. The moment stocks like Stack’s and McMillon’s are announced, there’s an outcry. There are widespread boycott threats from those who dare to take a stand. The internet (and my mailbox) is overflowing with warnings about a government plot to “Remove the weapons.”
It seems that this sector does not recognize that America has a problem with gun violence, not among law-abiding members of the NRA, but among those who should never have a gun. Arms crossed and heels sunk in, ignoring the obvious and deadly facts, will not solve the problem.
There has to come a time when we stop arguing and get out of this impasse. The death toll continues to rise. Statistics from Pew Research show that there were nearly 24,000 depressed and desperate Americans who used a gun to kill themselves in 2017.
Another 14,500 were murdered by someone shooting at them. In the first 9 months of 2019, 21 mass shootings took the lives of 124 people. When does this record count start to slow down?
No, a solution to our gun violence will not come quickly or all at once. Nor will it ever be absolute. But the status quo is simply unacceptable and action must be taken. What if we could all agree on that as a starting point?
Editor’s note: To learn more about Diane Dimond, visit her website at www.dianedimond.com. His latest book, “Thinking outside of crime and justice”, is available on Amazon.com. To read articles by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.