Throughout history, the United States has been a beacon of hope for the world — especially for people who appreciate and respect that we are a country founded on laws that have been enacted to guard our freedom and keep us safe.
As a gun owner, I support the Second Amendment and understand why, for many, the right to bear arms is as American as baseball and apple pie. But I also agree with what Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia wrote in his majority opinion in 2008’s landmark Heller case: “Like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited.” It is “not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose.”
It is clear we have a problem with the gun laws in this country. They are not squarely focused on keeping all of us safe — especially our children.
There continue to be mass shootings — at our schools, churches and entertainment venues. Following each of these senseless, tragic events there’s a great deal of idle, fruitless talk in the halls of Congress, and then the conversation quickly comes to an end.
It’s our great hope and belief that this time will be different. It has to be different.
Maybe it’s because the survivors of the Parkland, Florida, massacre — and the thousands of students who made their feelings known for 17 minutes last week — are standing up and shouting “enough is enough” and “never again.” They are demanding that our elected officials come together to find solutions. These brave young men and women are not going away.
In the weeks since we at Dick’s Sporting Goods announced plans to stop selling assault-style rifles, plans to only sell firearms to those over 21 and other new policies, we have been striving to keep this conversation going. We have met with a number of lawmakers and have talked with many of our peers in the retail industry. We have spoken with strong-willed advocacy groups and visited with families in Parkland.
It is becoming increasingly apparent through our conversations that there continues to be deep skepticism that anything of substance will be done.
Some members of Congress are committed to change, but not enough are willing to set aside partisanship to find a solution. I continue to call on lawmakers in both parties to talk with each other with the expressed intent to act.
What’s also surprising is how many citizens and leaders in our government are not aware of the loopholes and inconsistencies in our firearms laws.
Here are some to think about:
— You can’t buy a handgun until you’re 21, but you can buy an assault-style rifle at 18.
— You can buy a gun on the internet from someone in your state without a background check, but a background check is required to buy a gun on the internet from someone in a different state.
— Few states provide a list of those in their state who are banned from buying a gun to other states.
— A person deemed too dangerous to fly on a commercial plane is nonetheless legally permitted to purchase a gun.
We understand this is a complex issue and Congress has a number of constituencies with broad agendas. But we hope Congress will take notice of not only what students are saying but also what the private sector is telling it. Two of the three largest firearms retailers in the country have publicly said we are implementing our own policies for the sale of firearms.
This issue transcends our company’s bottom line. We suspected that speaking out would have a negative impact on our business. But this was about our values and standing up for what we think is right.
After we announced our new firearms policy, we were gratified that Walmart, Kroger, L.L. Bean and REI showed courage and leadership by announcing their own new policies. We hope others in the private and public sectors join us in this effort.
A group of us in corporate America have taken a stand, made hard choices and enacted reforms on our own because we firmly believe it’s the right thing to do for our kids and for our country.
The kids in Florida and across the nation have taken a stand and been brave enough to make their voices heard.
The majority of Americans are demanding that members of Congress take a stand and be brave enough to do their jobs.
Edward W. Stack is chief executive of Dick’s Sporting Goods.
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