Picture: UPSPLASH/GERSON MARTINS
Picture: UPSPLASH/GERSON MARTINS

New York — US retailer Dick’s Sporting Goods announced on Wednesday it would stop selling assault-style rifles and bar gun sales to any customers under 21 in the wake of the Florida school shooting.

Responding to the outcry from victims of the deadly Parkland high school shooting that claimed 17 lives, including 14 children, earlier this month, Dick’s called on politicians to enact "common sense gun reform".

Nikolas Cruz used an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle in the shooting, the same weapon used by many other mass shooters in the US, and he also purchased another weapon from Dick’s a few months before the February 14 incident.

Dick’s CE Edward Stack said: "We have to help solve the problem that’s in front of us.

"Gun violence is an epidemic that’s taking the lives of too many people, including the brightest hope for the future of America — our kids," he said.

The move was the latest example of corporate backlash against the gun industry in the wake of the most recent tragedy, with some companies cutting their ties to the National Rifle Association, a powerful gun lobbying organisation that puts pressure on US politicians to prevent any move to restrict gun ownership. The well-financed gun lobby is one of the largest in the US.

It spent $55m in support of President Donald Trump in the 2016 election

Stack said Dick’s remained a supporter of the right to own guns "and we recognise and appreciate that the vast majority of gun owners in this country are responsible, law-abiding citizens".

The chain already had halted sales of "assault-style rifles" at Dick’s stores after the Sandy Hook school massacre in 2012, but had continued selling them at its Field & Stream stores until now. The company also planned to end sales of high capacity magazines.

Stack acknowledged the company was the source of another weapon purchased by the Cruz.

"Following all of the rules and laws, we sold a shotgun to the Parkland shooter in November of 2017. It was not the gun, nor type of gun, he used in the shooting. But it could have been," Stack said.

"Clearly this indicates on so many levels that the systems in place are not effective to protect our kids and our citizens."

Since the Florida tragedy, student survivors have mobilised to demand action from government officials, creating a wave of public support on social media and traditional media, a markedly different dynamic than seen in the aftermath of other US mass shootings.

"We have tremendous respect and admiration for the students organizing and making their voices heard regarding gun violence in schools and elsewhere in our country," Stack said. "We have heard you. The nation has heard you."

Meanwhile, several state officials on Tuesday offered Delta Air Lines a new place to call home after a Georgia legislator said he would kill lucrative tax benefits to the Atlanta-based carrier as retribution for its decision to sever ties with the NRA.

Officials from Virginia, Washington, New York and Ohio have volunteered their states to headquarter Delta after the No 2 US carrier ended its relationship with the NRA in the wake of the Florida school shooting.

Delta did not respond to requests for comment.

On Monday, Georgia deputy governor Casey Cagle, a Republican, wrote on Twitter that he would "kill any tax legislation" that benefited Delta, unless the carrier reinstated its relationship with the NRA, which advocates for the Second Amendment right for Americans to bear arms.

Other companies to boycott or put pressure on the NRA are: First National Bank Of Omaha; BlackRock; Enterprise Holdings; National Car Rental, Enterprise and Alamo; Wyndham Worldwide; Best Western Hotels & Resorts; Symantec; Chubb; MetLife; North American Van Lines; United Airlines; Avis Budget Group; Hertz Global Holdings; and Lockton Companies.

AFP, Reuters