Thursday, March 1, 2018

Dick’s firearms restrictions sound nice, but will they really make a difference?

When I woke up Wednesday morning, I found a statement from Dick’s Sporting Goods in my e-mail box – the one telling me they’re going to stop sales of assault-style rifles and high-capacity ammunition magazines at the stores the company controls.
One less place selling assault-style rifles

Pretty soon, that statement had been turned into a story that was showing up on news organizations across the nation – heck, it was the lede story for the Chicago Sun-Times’ website for part of the day.

SOMEWHERE, THERE’S A public relations executive who earned their money for the day – they got Dick’s corporate name into the public eye, and in a way that will be viewed sympathetically by the general public.

A good day, I suppose.

Except that I’m not the least bit convinced this move will make any dent whatsoever in the flow of firearms that exist amongst the public – and are what causes the threat of violence that exists these days in our society.

Because I’m not convinced that the kind of people who are obtaining firearms for violent purposes who really have no business thinking of themselves as gun owners are those who go to big, public shopping centers when they seek out their weapons.

I WRITE THAT knowing full well that Dick’s officials admitted that one of the weapons used in that Parkland, Fla., school shooting that left 17 dead last month was a shotgun that had been purchased from a Dick’s store.

That was truly the fluke.

Perhaps I’ve been influenced too much by the Rev. Jesse Jackson and other activists who get worked up over gun violence. As a reporter-type person, I have seen them do many protests at gun shops that usually are in isolated locations. A place like Dick’s would be far too public for the kind of people actually having thoughts of large-scale violence for whatever foul reason they concoct in their minds.

And I’m not about to blame places like Chuck’s Gun Shop, located in suburban Riverdale just a few blocks across from the Chicago city limits. Although Jackson and the Rev. Michael Pfleger have often said they think Chuck’s sells many of the weapons that eventually wind up being used for nefarious purposes, even that store in a decaying suburb (one I lived in for a few years back when I was a young child) may be too out-in-the-open for conspiracy types.

WHAT ALWAYS ASTOUNDS me is the trail a weapon can take from the time it was legally sold to the point when someone decided to enrich themselves by selling it to someone whose intent is some sort of foul play.

It’s certainly not anything that would involve Dick’s.

Heck, Dick’s itself actually cut off sales of automatic rifles several years ago following another school shooting incident in Connecticut – one that involved children far younger than the teenagers who perished in Florida. What this act involves is cutting off sales of such weapons at the Field & Stream stores that also are a part of the corporate family.

Obviously, cutting off the sales at Dick’s proper several years ago didn’t prevent this incident from occurring. In fact, it makes me agree with a television-type pundit I heard recently who said that if the incident at the Sandy Hook Elementary School (where very young children were killed) didn’t motivate political people to act, then likely nothing would.

I DID FIND it interesting to see Dick’s says it will no longer sell firearms of any type to anyone under 21, which is a step in the right direction.

Particularly since it is an idea being contemplated by the Illinois General Assembly, where on Wednesday the Illinois House of Representatives approved an identical age limit, while taking up the enactment of several firearms-related restrictions that allegedly will make the public feel more secure.

Seeing a business voluntarily take on such a restriction is more likely to work than a state law that, I’m sure, ideologues will claim is another unfair regulation meant to hem in business.

But it still doesn’t change the fact that this move by Dick’s is but a tiny piece of the overall solution. Just as I’m sure our state Legislature’s actions are motivated in part by their desire that we quit focusing attention on other issues (sexual harassment, anyone?) they’d prefer we ignore.


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