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Dick's Sporting Goods ends sale of assault-style rifles in stores, Walmart raises age for guns and ammo

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (WNCN) - Some gun owners plan to boycott Dick's Sporting Goods and its subsidiary Field & Stream stores following the company's announcement of significant changes to its firearms sales policies.

Dick's Chairman and CEO Edward Stack announced Wednesday it will no longer sell guns to anyone under 21 years of age. Field & Stream will no longer carry assault-style rifles or high capacity magazines. Three of the outdoor equipment specialty chain's 35 locations are in North Carolina, in Asheville, Charlotte, and Fayetteville.

Hours after that announcement, Walmart issued a news release saying the company will also raise its age restriction on buying firearms and ammunition to 21.

Some customers welcomed the decision.

Rosalyn Smith said, "They're able to go in, buy the guns. And then when they buy the guns, they shoot up everything. Gun control, where is it?"

Wendell Strutz, who served in the military, said he supports the companies' decisions and recommended raising the age restriction even further to 25.

Dick's Sporting Goods stores stopped selling assault weapons, also referred to as modern sporting rifles, after the December 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Stack said Wednesday that the 19-year-old suspect in the February 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, bought a shotgun from a Dick's store in November.

In a written statement, the company said:

It was not the gun, nor type of gun, he used in the shooting. But it could have been. Clearly this indicates on so many levels that the systems in place are not effective to protect our kids and our citizens. We believe it's time to do something about it.

Reaction to the company's announcement was overwhelmingly negative among some current and now-former customers at the Dick's and Field & Stream stores at Fayetteville's Freedom Town Center.

Jackson Bennett learned of the policy changes from an Instagram post. He said it seemed unbelievable, so he went to the store Wednesday afternoon to find out if it was true.

"I honestly couldn't believe that in Fayetteville, North Carolina, in the South, you would have a store that discontinued selling any type of firearm based just on the platform of an AR-15," Bennett said.

"That is the choice of the private company. That is their decision, but anybody who disagrees can join me in not shopping there again. I will go all the way up to Cabela's in Smithfield if I have to, but I will not shop here again."

A disabled veteran who refused to give his name said he was a loyal customer enrolled in the Dick's ScoreCard rewards program. On Wednesday, he went to the customer service desk and requested a manager be present while he cut up his card in front of them.

"Handed it to them and asked for them to disenroll me from their computer," the NRA-hat-wearing veteran said.

"I cannot in good conscience patronize any business or establishment that does not support our U.S. Constitution and all of the amendments thereof."

He and others said this is a move to placate a politically correct crowd. The veteran said Dick's might gain some new customers but he believes many more will choose to take their business elsewhere.

An active duty soldier drove through the parking lot and shouted that he expected many folks from Fort Bragg will boycott.

Dick's is choosing to eliminate some of its potential pool of customers by prohibiting gun sales to 18, 19, and 20-year-olds. Chairman Stack is encouraging members of Congress to increase the national minimum age to buy firearms.

The reaction to the company's decision was mixed. One woman said 21 might even be too young, while others said if 18-year-olds are old enough to enlist, they are old enough to buy their own guns.

Bennett, who is 17, said he understands the age restrictions.

"Many Republicans will say that it's infringement on your right to own a firearm if they change the age from 18 to 21 overall. I personally understand it," he said.

"It's unfortunate, but I feel like shotguns and other hunting rifles you should be able to buy at 18."

The disabled Army veteran who cut up his ScoreCard said the age issue is the one aspect he is open to debating.

"I'm willing to work to find a happy medium. Perhaps maybe in light of the fact that handguns are for 21, I could possibly, possibly accept that, but when you as an establishment refuse to sell high capacity magazines, when they're lawful, under the guise of some unfortunate tragedy seems to befalling us," he said.

"When does this ridiculousness stop? This is just ridiculous. If you want to feel good, go to church. However, a business decision for a lawful product is ridiculous. It's a lawful product."

The Dick's CEO said he is a gun owner who supports the second amendment. However, he and the company are encouraging Congress to ban assault-style firearms and high capacity magazines, raise the national minimum age to buy firearms to 21, and increase requirements for background checks and ban lists.

Walmart noted it stopped selling modern sporting rifles, including the AR-15, three years ago. In addition, the company pointed out it has stopped selling "bump stocks, high-capacity magazines and similar accessories."

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