An Open Letter to Edward Stack – Dick’s Sporting Goods

Dear Mr. Stack:

Your press statement of February 28, 2018, clearly suggests that you have no comprehension of the reasons for or the remedies for school shootings or other mass shootings in the vein of Las Vegas, Parkwood, Sandy Hook, or Columbine, among others. Allow me to take your letter bit-by-bit and explain the facts so that the public has a clearer picture of just what is really driving a poorly thought out policy that will eventually come back to haunt you and the stockholders of Dick’s Sporting Goods/Field and Stream Stores.

There is not a sane person in this country that does not abhor any sort of violence against children or other innocents regardless of how that violence is carried out and what tool is used to inflict that harm.

There are few citizens who do not offer their thoughts and prayers and believe that those alone are enough. It is what the next step is that separates the hysteria from the sensible, and the useful from the destructive.

Like every other tool, a firearm can be used for a multitude of valid, peaceful, and legal uses that aid many thousands of citizens in efforts to defend themselves, participate in sports and enjoy the outdoors. Many are your customers.

You say that you support the 2nd Amendment along with a “vast majority of gun owners in this country [who] are responsible, law-abiding citizens.” These citizens have every right to own and use – for lawful purposes – any and all currently legal firearms. But your new policies and statements encourage other dealers to arbitrarily punish a class of innocent citizens by denying them a highly useful tool to protect their families among other valid uses.   Yes, they can (and I hope they do) take their business elsewhere and continue to patronize dealers who conduct their business legally and respect the rights of their customers…for now, anyway.

So, you respect the 2nd Amendment but “we have to help solve the problem in front of us.” Well, let me suggest some far better means to solving the problem:

  1. Eliminate “gun-free zones”. We provide armed security to guard our money, our offices, and multiple systems provide security for things as mundane as parking garages, but we fail to provide any sort of protection to our children in schools across the country – with a few notable exceptions.

    I visited a private school in Parkersburg, WV, a year or two ago. There was clearly marked directions telling anyone entering the property that there was only one entrance available to visitors. At that entrance, before the door was unlocked, you were visible to personnel in the school office who could clearly see whether you were carrying anything that would indicate a problem. A microphone allowed them to determine your reason for needing entry.   Once you were admitted by a person at the door, you were escorted to the office and again questioned as to who you needed to see and why. The person(s) were then summoned to the office to meet with the visitor. At no time were visitors allowed to wander unaccompanied within the halls of the school.

  2. Could have been, would have been, should have been. Yes, you made a legal sale of a shotgun to the Parkland shooter. That is not on you or your company (assuming you followed the law). The failure of the system was on the part of the Broward County Sheriff’s Office and the FBI…multiple times. These issues had nothing to do with what type of firearm that was used and everything about a highly dubious policy intended to do one thing – reduce the juvenile delinquency statistics within the county to make it appear that the Sheriff’s Office was effectively dealing with juvenile crime. In fact, what they were doing is diverting offenders before conviction to avoid confining criminals who just happened to be under 18 or under 21 at the time of the offense. This is a far greater crime committed by those responsible for this policy than the crimes they overlooked in a misguided effort (or deliberately political effort) to make Broward County look safer than it really is.
  3. The outcry we hear most often from politicians and those trotted out before the media (you included) is “we have to do something – anything – to keep this from happening again”. The problem with that is knee-jerk reactions seldom accomplish much in the way of preventing such horrendous events. That is largely because such a complex problem has few simple answers, but politicians and publicity hounds love simple answers because, well, they are so simple…and simple-minded.
  4. Stopping the sale of the single most popular sporting rifle ever produced may make your virtue-signaling efforts more widely recognized, but do you really think you are doing anything meaningful to reduce the flow of such products into the marketplace? More importantly, do you really think that it will keep someone from obtaining one for illegal and violent purposes? The reality is, if you want a firearm of any kind, there is always a means to obtain one either legally through one of thousands of responsible, Federal Firearms Licensee Dealers across the country who have every right to sell while following the law’s requirements, or on the mean streets of America. Neither Dick’s or any other dealer is responsible for what their customer does with what they purchase. To suggest otherwise is nothing more than virtue-signaling of the worst kind.
  5. The idea that raising the age to 21 years old to purchase a firearm is, again, misguided and completely hypocritical. We solicit and recruit 18 year old men and women to serve our country by putting on a uniform, strapping on a flack jacket, taking up a far more sophisticated firearms than any “AR-style” rifle available to the general public and ship them off to far-away places away from their families with a real risk that they will die defending a foreign country against marauding tribes that would do them harm. We invite these youths to vote in our elections even though many have been provided with substandard training on subjects as simple as how and why our government functions the way it does and the value of freedom, responsibility, and equal opportunity. Over the long haul, this could be doing much more harm to our country than anything else.
  6. Banning “high-capacity” magazines and bump stocks are also arbitrary and without evidence that either would curtain or prevent any sort of mass shooting. The fact is, a reasonably skilled marksman can switch magazines in a rifle of any kind quickly enough to prevent anyone within 20 yards of the shooter from reaching him/her in the time it takes to make the switch. He/she might need to bring a few more with them, but overall, banning a 20-round magazine makes little difference in the result. Bump stocks have been rapidly demonized since the Las Vegas shooting solely on the statements of ill-informed media talking heads that claim it increases the rate of fire. In truth, a bump stock does two things…wastes the purchaser’s money on something that reduces aiming accuracy while doing nothing to increase the rate of fire. The limitation on rate of fire with a semi-automatic firearm is the time it takes from the firing pin striking the primer on the cartridge in the chamber to the point where that cartridge case is ejected, and a new cartridge is inserted into the chamber. This period is far longer than it would take anyone to pull the trigger repeatedly. However, the trigger cannot be operated without allowing the process described to be completed. A bump stock simply allows the shooter to overcome any personal deficit in their ability to pull the trigger at a rate that matches the cycle-time of the firearm. The constant rearward pressure on the fore-end of the rifle required for a bump stock to perform its function, however, creates an awkward and difficult posture that interferes with the ability to maintain aim while firing. It truly has little value to the sporting or self-defense uses of a sporting rifle and, in my humble opinion, only serves to separate the purchaser from their money. It has nothing meaningful to do with lethality or rate of fire.
  7. Currently, federal law places strong sanctions on doctors and hospitals regarding the disclosure of medical history or records of patients. How would you propose the mental health history or problems of an individual should be made available to the federal enforcement agencies while still protecting the constitutional rights of citizens to be “…secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects…” (4th Amendment)? Our President recently suggested that someone should have their firearms confiscated before worrying about any due process considerations. I found that statement alarming and destructive of the foundations of our country. While I respect many of the decisions he has made on this and other subjects, this statement was very bad for America.
  8. Another glaring problem with your list of “solutions” is the suggestion that the “gun show loophole” be closed. In reality, there is no such thing. Yes, there may be an occasional, small gun show that is run by unscrupulous individuals that might allow the sale and transfer of firearms without the required background checks. However, these situations are few and far between. They should easily be closed down by local law enforcement if they are awake. Those who manage and stage gun shows are generally honest, hard-working business people who require those exhibiting in their shows to either be an FFL dealer or to use one provided by the show’s management to process any transfers taking place within the show premises. To do otherwise would open the management to broad and expensive liability litigation should they be found doing otherwise. An FFL dealer would only need to conduct one transaction at a show without an NICS check and he could wind up without a business and even end up in jail for doing so. Likewise, the show manager. It is just not worth the risk. Closing an imaginary loophole only provides imaginary safety.
  9. I will give you one point. The NICS system is useless if we allow federal, state and local agencies to “opt out” or negligently fail to report specific cases that would qualify for denial of a firearms purchase. Those failures such as were experienced within the Air Force in the case of the Church shooting in Texas are inexcusable. This problem needs to be addressed.
  10. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, your claim that saving one life is worth doing all these things that deny law-abiding citizens their constitutional rights is abhorrent to any citizen that respects the freedoms provided by a national constitution that puts individual liberty ahead of government-guaranteed safety. While no one wants anyone to die, to suggest that denying law-abiding citizens of their rights is justified is only a single step away from tyranny.

I have not even begun to cover all the points that could be made rationally, but I hope you will do a bit more objective research without succumbing to the trap of falling for much of what passes for fact with those whose real aim is not to prevent mass shootings, but to completely disarm the American people for their own selfish, misguided reasons. Government is not the answer to these issues.

Our country, for the most part, has abandoned any sort of principled morality, belief that anything greater than humans exists. They want humans to decide what is right or wrong on their own, and any sort of personal responsibility is un-needed. Our families have been decimated by easy divorce, fatherless upbringings that do not teach children what it means to respect each other and provide for their children. Violent games and media presentations continue to desensitize our children from death and killing. Little can be done to address these shootings until our country comes to a reckoning about how terribly we have been at raising responsible children.

It is my sincere belief that cooler heads will prevail and much of what you are espousing to prevent these shootings will not be institutionalized. Instead, volunteer or paid, armed security, and some of the security measures described above are common-sense, fact-based measures that could truly make a difference. I hope for the sake of your shareholders that you re-think your policy. It is only going to hurt those who put you in a position of trust over their well-being. Good luck with that.

Tom Stark

Tom Stark’s career began with Air Force service, including a year in Thailand and Vietnam, and progressed through a variety of manufacturing and service positions to Manager of Security, Safety, and Transportation for the Orange County (FL) Convention Center. He graduated from Barry University in 1994 and soon after embarked on a second career building custom furniture as an entrepreneur for the last 20 years. He unsuccessfully ran as a Tea Party candidate in the 2010 Congressional race (WV-01). Tom currently writes and advocates for smaller more prudent and less intrusive government, strengthening families and protecting life while building free market principles that make America stronger. He is now 70, retired, and residing with his wife in Weston, West Virginia.

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