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Local activists sound off on Dick's gun sales policy changes


Local gun rights advocates and anti-gun violence activists are offering their thoughts on Wednesday morning's announcement by a national sporting goods chain that it is ending sales of military-style assault rifles and raising the minimum age for all gun sales to 21.

Dick's Sporting Goods chief executive officer Ed Stack announced his company's policy changes during an appearance on ABC's Good Morning America on the same day students were returning to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. It was at the school accused gunman Nikolas Cruz carried out a mass shooting that left 17 dead and many more wounded.

In addition to ending sales of military-style rifles and raising the minimum age, Dick's Sporting Goods is also ending the sale of high-capacity magazines.  

"I applaud them. I think they're becoming great, responsible corporate citizens," said Paul McQuillen, Upstate Coordinator for the group New Yorkers Against Gun Violence. "I think the responsible thing to do, which unfortunately our Congress and too many state legislatures won't do, is is recognize there's no need for military-style assault weapons in the civilian community."

A past chairman of a New York State-based Second Amendment rights protection group says while Dick's made a business decision, it's not one he would have made because he finds it illogical.

"It's not the gun that causes the problem," said Harold 'Budd' Schroeder, Chairman Emeritus for the Shooters Committee on Political Education (SCOPE). "Any problems are caused by a person who is evil or mentally deranged. I don't know how you make a law against that."

Hunting rifles, shotguns and blackpowder muzzleloaders are still available for purchase at Dick's Sporting Goods. Cruz purchased a gun from a Dick's store but not the military-styled weapon he is alleged to have used in the Parkland shootings.

Still, gun violence activists welcome Dick's decision and hope other retail chains follow suit.

"The AK-47s and assault weapons such as that are designed specifically for killing people and not for hunting and not for target shooting," McQuillen said. 

Schroeder, however, said many people do use AR-15s and similar powerful guns for sport.

"They are called by the people that are not anti-gun modern sporting rifles," he said. "They're very accurate. The cartridge is used for varmints like woodchucks and coyotes, things like that, and that's heavy enough for deer."

He added that New Yorkers already cannot buy AR-15s as the result of New York State's SAFE Act. A true AR-15, Schroeder told WBFO, would need to be registered and would remain with the owner, saying "it dies with them."

"There are some that kind of look that way but they're strictly cosmetic features," Schroeder said. "It doesn't change a darn thing. They're doing it to be politically correct and it's their business decision."

McQuillen was asked if the Parkland shootings and the actions since, including Dick's Sporting Goods' policy change and a number of companies ceasing business associations with the National Rifle Association, may be the signs that America has finally reached that "last straw" in a lengthy gun debate.

"The unfortunate thing is, they say 'it's not time to talk.' The reality is the time to talk was after Columbine," McQuillen said. "Let's do it now."

Michael Mroziak is an experienced, award-winning reporter whose career includes work in broadcast and print media. When he joined the WBFO news staff in April 2015, it was a return to both the radio station and to Horizons Plaza.