One of the country's largest sporting goods retailers is holstering its sales of assault-style firearms.
Dick's Sporting Goods released a statement on Wednesday that said it was deeply disturbed and saddened by what happened in Parkland, FL.
Seventeen people were shot and killed at a high school on Valentine's Day.
"Our thoughts and prayers are with all of the victims and their loved ones. But thoughts and prayers are not enough," said Edward W. Stack, chairman and CEO, Dick's Sporting Goods. "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 admitted that the company legally sold a shotgun to the confessed shooter, Nikolas Cruz, in November.
"It was not the gun, nor type of gun, he used in the shooting. But it could have been," he said.
Stack said it was time that something be done about the systems in place to protect children and citizens.
He said Dick's will no longer sell assault-style rifles.
"We had already removed them from all Dick's stores after the Sandy Hook massacre, but we will now remove them from sale at all 35 Field & Stream stores," he said.
Dick's will also no longer sell firearms to anyone under the age of 21 or sell high capacity magazines.
On Wednesday evening, Walmart said it will no longer sell firearms and ammunition to people younger than 21.
"In light of recent events, we’ve taken an opportunity to review our policy on firearm sales. Going forward, we are raising the age restriction for purchase of firearms and ammunition to 21 years of age. We will update our processes as quickly as possible to implement this change," Walmart said in a statement.
"We moved here from Parkland, Florida. My middle daughter actually being 14 would have been a freshman at Stoneman Douglas at this time," said Jeff Williams, who now lives in Rocky Hill with his family.
He said he's been inspired by the way Stoneman Douglas students have spoken out after the tragedy.
"Very proud to be from that community and see how those kids have risen up and really try to draw attention to this challenge," Williams said.
“In the wake of the Parkland, Florida shooting, millions of Americans have decided that enough is enough, that assault weapons do not belong in the hands of civilians, and that our culture of gun violence must finally come to an end. I commend Walmart for their responsible decision to raise age restrictions for gun purchases to 21, after already having ended the sale of assault-style rifles in 2015. Students, parents, and teachers all across the country are standing together against the gun violence epidemic, and the business community is responding. It’s well past time for the federal government to do the same," said Gov. Dannel Malloy.
"There's a majority of people who use and own weapons that want them to be used responsibly," said Forrest Helvie, a veteran and Newington resident. "So there's no reason we don't take some responsible measures to address the issue."
In Connecticut, assault weapons are already banned, but now even with a state police permit, an 18-year-old will not be able to buy a shotgun or rifle at Dick's stores.
Some people Channel 3 spoke with called the move a step in the right direction.
"I think if you can't drink until you're 21, you shouldn't be able to buy a gun until you're 21," said Susan Abucewicz of New Britain.
While assault rifles and certain assault-style weapons are already banned in Connecticut, 18-year-olds are still allowed to purchase shotguns and rifles with a state police-issued permit.
Under the new policy by Dick's, they won't be able to do that anymore.
Stack also implored lawmakers to ban assault-style firearms, raise the minimum age to purchase firearms to 21, ban high capacity magazines and bump stocks, require universal background checks that include mental health information and prior interactions with the law, and close a loophole that waives the necessity of background checks.
The Sandy Hook Promise organization, which was born in the wake of the Newtown shooting that left 26 students and staff dead in 2012, thanked Dick's for the announcement.
"Good decision to help reduce gun violence," the group posted to its Facebook page.
"Some will say these steps can’t guarantee tragedies like Parkland will never happen again," Stack said. "They may be correct – but if common sense reform is enacted and even one life is saved, it will have been worth it."
The National Rifle Association took to Twitter to defend the Second Amendment.
"Bans do nothing but infringe on the rights of law-abiding citizens," the organization posted.
Scott Wilson, president of the Connecticut Citizens Defense League, provided a statement.
"Dick's sporting goods is entitled to their own business model but I think there are other retailers that will sell to the market," Wilson said. "Quite frankly if you are 18 you are an adult, you can join the military, and you can be asked to move out of your parents home. So how are individuals 18-21 years old going to be able to protect their homes if they can't legally purchase firearms?"
In regards to Walmart, Wilson said "It is troubling to see Walmart following another Big Box chain with age discriminatory policies. CCDL stands by the rights of young adult individuals who are of legal age to vote, join the military and can legally purchase firearms. Hopefully Walmart will rethink this policy, but if not, young adults will still be able to purchase rifles and shotguns from smaller retailers.Those 18-21 have every right under the law to self-protection in their homes, as well as having the right to hunt and, target shoot.”
Gov. Dannel Malloy supported the decision by Dick's.
“At a time when the American people are rising up and demanding meaningful gun safety reform, the federal government continues to bend to the will of the NRA,” Malloy said. “When even major retailers that sell guns say it’s time to ban assault-style weapons, members of Congress should listen up, and take action. I applaud Dick’s Sporting Goods for their strong stance on this critical issue, and hope that more companies follow suit in this prime example of good cooperate stewardship.”
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