Retail, legislative voices weigh in on gun control
After the massacre that left 17 people dead in Parkland on Feb. 14, debate regarding gun policy began to rise, as is typically the case when a large-scale mass shooting occurs. However, it is the response to this particular shooting that has caused some changes to be made – on a corporate and legislative level.
These corporate or legislative policies are problematic and their eventual effectiveness is questionable. Underlying motives for these changes are questionable. The changes made are also counterproductive to each other’s aim. If effective policy is to be made, cohesive and systematic amendments are required.
Some unlikely voices have joined the conversation on gun control – in the form of “corporate activism.” The most recent corporate voice to speak and act in support of enforcing gun restrictions is Dick’s Sporting Goods.
On Feb. 28, Dick’s ended all sales of assault-style rifles and high-capacity magazines in its stores and will only sell guns to those over the age of 21. Following soon after, Walmart also raised its age limit for gun purchase to 21. Both companies enacted these decisions after various companies, such as Hertz Car Rental, Metlife Insurance and Delta Airlines, ended their partnership with the National Rifle Association (NRA).
The Washington Post reports that Dick’s had also ended sales of assault rifles in 2012, as a response to the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, Connecticut, where a gunman killed 26 people. However, they went back on sale only months later at their Field & Stream stores.
This decision appears more business related than humanitarian. Given Dick’s Sporting Goods’ history, this decision could reverse if cultural attitudes were to fade or shift, despite their claim that this is a permanent change in their retail chain. There would be nothing to stop Dick’s from repeating what they did after Sandy Hook, unless federal restrictions were put into law in the meantime.
However, on the contrary to Dick’s apparent stance, The Florida Senate has recently voted to mandate a $67 million proposal to arm and train teachers in case of an incoming attack.
While Dick’s is acting to promote more gun restrictions (regardless of its motives), legislators are inviting more guns into the classroom to combat gun violence. This legislation would not only be ineffective, but could potentially create more fatalities – during or outside of a mass shooting event. It is unreasonable to require teachers, who earned their degrees to educate, to essentially become law enforcement officers. Like their students, teachers deserve a right to a safe working environment – without being required to engage in gun violence to make it happen.
Civically and commercially, gun policy changes are in effect. However, these changes are not cohesive and serve to further divide the conversation on gun control. If corporations are using companywide mandates or severed partnerships in their activism, their changes must be permanent and not solely enacted during shifts in the cultural climate. Policymakers should pay more attention to the voices in the current cultural climate instead of passing legislation that contradicts the ultimate goal of safety in the classroom.
Paige Wisniewski is a junior majoring in interdisciplinary sciences.