Guns on display at the Dick's Sporting Goods store in Danvers, Mass., on Wednesday. (C.J. Gunther/EPA/Shutterstock, courtesy of The Los Angeles Times)
Here we go again. There's a school shooting, then a lot of tears and hand-wringing, then nothing happens.
But wait, maybe, just maybe, this time is different.
I'm of course referring to the recent mass shooting in Parkland, FL that killed 17 people, including 14 students, a geography teacher, an assistant football coach and the school's athletic director. In response, three major U.S. retailers—Walmart (one of America's largest firearm retailers), Dick's Sporting Goods and Kroger—have "voluntarily restricted gun sales to make a policy statement and manage their image with consumers," reports The Los Angeles Times.
According to the article, these retailers "are responding to the national uproar that followed the shooting...especially the feverish debate on Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms. They are not waiting for legislative action to improve matters."
According to Roger Beahm, executive director of Wake Forest University's Center for Retail Innovation, the retailers "want to position themselves in the minds of consumers by taking steps like this," even if it means alienating some consumers who object to further gun controls.
Risking alienating customers? That's a bold move, which is also being taken by Delta Air Lines and Hertz, which are eliminating their discount programs for NRA members. (The NRA's response? Calling the moves "a shameful display of political and civic cowardice.")
Dick's and others might even see a surge in the top line or in overall sales by taking stances on certain gun controls that prompt consumers to shift business their way.
Yes, you have a bottom line and stockholders. But perhaps there's something more important going on right now. Maybe we are on the brink of something that's transformative.
But now, in the aftermath of this horrific event, the actions of big retailers like Walmart and Dick's have taken on a deeper and more urgent meaning, and consumers' demands that companies demonstrate they are good community citizens have gotten louder.
"Retailers are recognizing that society and consumer demands are changing," Beahm said in the article.
And to that, I say bravo. It's about time.