Gun Control and Market Forces: A View from the Field

The Parkland, Florida, shooting may mark a pivot point in the national discussion about guns. While the NRA is standing firm against gun control, there is something beyond the reach of legislators and lobbyists: market forces.

We’ve seen several companies, notably Dick’s Sporting Goods and Walmart among them, announce they would raise the minimum buying age at their stores to 21. Dick’s also said it would no longer sell semi-automatic rifles. The company disclosed that the Parkland shooter did buy a gun from Dick’s, but that weapon was not used in the mass shooting. Still, Dick’s was moved to act because it had come close to being a part of that story and it never wants to be part of such a story.

The reactions to Parkland have been swift, including a curious one by President Trump, who said he wanted to take guns away from people who may present a threat and get to due process later. That definitely threw my head back. After years of hearing that Democrats want to take away people’s guns, it was incredibly ironic to hear a Republican president suggest it. But, subsequently, Trump said he had a “great meeting” with the NRA and the NRA said the president remained committed to due process. What a relief the president wants to maintain the rule of law.

Anyhow, a lot looks to be changing under current law. If some retailers pull away from gun sales, others will remain in the market to meet demand, to be sure. Academy Sports + Outdoors, which supports legislation to broaden background checks, is not changing its gun sales business model.

But gun sales are down across the board, leading to the bankruptcy of Remington. Also, when Camping World acquired Gander Mtn., the Camping World CEO blamed Gander’s retail demise in part on a bad bet on gun sales.

Will actions by Dick’s and Walmart reduce the risk of mass shootings? Probably not. But it does protect their reputation if such a shooter did not acquire a weapon from them, or at least that’s the thinking.

In the interest of full disclosure, I have shopped for guns at many big box sporting goods stores and purchased from Gander and Academy. Their sales staff are knowledgeable, helpful and, of course, compliant with the law. I’ll never forget the time I returned to Gander to discuss a rifle I had looked at before. A gentleman was waiting on me and asking me questions about my skill level and my intended uses. I told him I needed to be sited in for my next deer hunt at 300 yards, so I would need some time – about six weeks – to practice at the range before the trip. We had a detailed discussion about the different kinds of hunts and locations where I am likely to be. Then, a rude man rushed up and interrupted us.

The jerk addressed the salesman as if I was invisible. The salesman noted he was with a customer and the man should take a number. He kept talking. He kept coming back and insisting he wanted to buy a handgun. I don’t know if my salesman signaled the others, but no one would wait on this guy. He left in a huff. The salesman shook his head and said, “I will never sell a gun to anyone in a rush.”

This does not resolve all the questions surrounding how to prevent mass shootings. Some staunch supporters of the Second Amendment do not want any new restrictions. I would argue that defeatist inaction is not an option. The definition of insanity is keeping the status quo and expecting different results.

Do I want restrictions that would keep me from obtaining guns? No. I hunt and like the option of self-defense. As noted in a previous blog, while stranded in a flooded neighborhood after Hurricane Harvey, we had armed men come to our house in the middle of the night. There was no incident, thank goodness, but in such a situation, you should be able to defend yourself in your own home.

As for the AR-15 – notorious to some, appreciated by others – I haven’t shot one yet. I did occur to me on a hog hunt last year that it would have been an appropriate tool for responding to a horde of hogs in the woods and tall grass. That said, if I could not obtain one, I’d get over that idea.

But would I mind if I had to wait a few days or longer to obtain another weapon? No. Do I think my Second Amendment rights would be abridged? No.

Even a Republican congressman from Florida has now called for enhanced background checks and other measures to keep guns away from dangerous people. That kind of approach and the market forces may curb some of the danger.

Have I ever been afraid of another gun owner? Yes. Besides the men on our porch after the hurricane, one time I was at a range and a couple next to me came in with an AR-15, which frankly is a little loud for an indoor range. The real problem was neither the man or the woman seem to have any experience handling a rifle of any kind. They were not holding it properly and the kickback against their chests must have been awful. I was really worried one of them would accidentally shoot us, so I gave my boyfriend hand signals that we must leave immediately. These were not responsible gun owners.

The other thing that concerns me is the danger of an active shooter with such a gun. A lot of these shooters have had red flags all around them. We need to study what they have in common and how that could help identify dangers before they are realized. What’s potentially helpful about the Parkland shooting is the suspect is alive. Maybe he has something to tell the rest of us about how to keep this from happening again and again.


What you may have noticed here is there are no pictures of guns associated with this blog. Why? Because I generally find it inappropriate. Granted, I once posted a picture to Facebook of myself in the field with a buck I harvested and the rifle was in the picture. I got some negative feedback, but from people who eat meat, so I shrugged that off. I also once posted a picture of me and The Sage Leopard (pictured above on a regular walk) while in the field during a dove hunt. My shotgun was in the picture. To clarify, I am not suggesting people hide how guns are part of their normal life. But I do have concerns about anyone posing in selfies with guns just to look tough or intimidating.