In the wake of the tragic school shooting in Florida and news that the shooter bought one of his rifles from Dick’s Sporting Goods, the CEO announced that the chain would no longer carry AR-15 rifles. This made headlines, even though there’s less to the story than meets the eye. For instance, the rifle purchased at Dick’s wasn’t used in the shooting. It also wasn't an AR-15. It couldn’t be, since Dick’s already stopped selling those in 2012. This latest announcement applies to Field & Stream, an outdoor and hunting goods chain owned by Dick’s. You could tell that the people celebrating the news were clueless about what they were celebrating by how many of them on social media referred to the rifle in question as an “AK-15.”
WalMart also announced that it will no longer sell firearms or ammunition to anyone under 21, among other new policies that won’t make any difference in deterring criminals and school shooters. It puts them in the unique position of refusing to sell any gun, or even a toy gun that resembles a military weapon, to a 19-year-old Marine who handles real military weapons for a living, but then, logic isn’t what most gun control policies are about. They’re usually based on what make people feel safer, not what actually makes people safer.
But it’s a free country, and Dick’s and Walmart can carry whatever products they want in their stores. They should just be aware that, as the movie industry and the NFL learned, taking sides on controversial issues is bad for business. A lot of people go to Dick’s or Walmart for hunting supplies; many will likely take their business elsewhere now. If the executives hope that lost business will be offset by more urban-dwelling liberals shopping at Dick’s and WalMart, they’re likely to be sorely disappointed.
And if they thought blaming the hardware or law-abiding gun owners for the evil actions of shooters was popular just because it’s the only view you hear in the media, there’s new evidence that that’s a seriously misguided assumption. A new poll of voters by Morning Consult for Politico.com found that the favorability ratings of companies that severed programs for NRA members has plummeted virtually overnight. They are now viewed slightly more favorably by Democrats, but far less so by Republicans. To cite one, Enterprise Rent-a-Car’s favorable rating rose 4 points among Democrats but free-fell from +52 to -9 among Republicans, averaging out to a 24-point drop overall. There’s a chart at this link that shows the results of siding with leftist elites against half or more of your customer base. But again, it’s a free country, and I will defend these companies’ unquestionable right to alienate their own customers.
Right now, President Trump is worrying some of his supporters who took him at his word that he would defend the Constitution. He’s talking about backing comprehensive gun control laws, and taking people’s guns first, then allowing due process. This is the trait that some Never Trumpers feared: that lacking a solid foundation of conservative principles, he might be prone to letting prevailing media narratives and pressures make him “go all wobbly,” as Margaret Thatcher so memorably put it.
And of course, most Republicans think it’s a sure sign Trump has taken a seriously wrong turn when he’s actually praised by Chuck Schumer.
It remains to be seen what that “comprehensive” gun law package will eventually contain by the time it gets out of Congress, if it does. The NRA is fine with strong background checks. Some other proposals will likely do nothing but create more cost and inconvenience for lawful buyers and sellers. Congress already banned “assault weapons,” a nebulous term without an actual meaning, and it was allowed to expire because it had virtually no effect, but why not do it again? The idea of banning gun sales to people on the terrorist watch list makes obvious sense, but only if you don’t know the problems with that list, that people can easily be placed on it by mistake due to incompetence or partisan spite and have their Constitutional rights taken away for no good reason. That’s a reform that should only be passed once the list is reformed. And other proposals that might be in it would run afoul of the Bill of Rights and surely be challenged in court. So far, the only change I see that might actually have prevented any of these mass shootings is the one liberals vehemently oppose: banning designated “gun-free zones” (or as I call them, “sitting duck zones.”)
While Americans often get frustrated with “gridlock,” we forget how fortunate we are that the Founders created a system that has so much built-in inertia. They knew that it was easy for the masses to get swept up in the heat of the moment and want to hurry and pass laws or change the Constitution when they’re not thinking rationally. So they created a system that requires long, drawn-out debate and multiple steps to pass a law, and even more hoops to jump through to change the Constitution. Maybe in the end, this will result in new gun laws. There’s nothing wrong with that, as long as what finally emerges are laws that help prevent further tragedies while not infringing on the rights of law-abiding citizens.
Just two weeks after the horrifying shooting in Florida, Americans are still grieving and searching for answers, but there are signs of a backlash already building against those who would seek to exploit our grief for political advantage or to shift blame away from the killers and onto their hardware. Americans are smart enough to realize that when the Frankenstein monster went on a rampage, it wasn’t the fault of the people who made the bolts in his neck. It was because he was a monster.
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