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Dick’s Sporting Goods and the Episcopal Church’s evolving role in gun control activism

Dick’s Sporting Goods and the Episcopal Church’s evolving role in gun control activism

Episcopal News Service has published a story on the work of the Episcopal Church, along with five Catholic entities, playing a role in the recent decision by Dick’s Sporting Goods to cease sales of assault rifles in all its stores (it had ceased selling them in Dick’s stores following Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012):

The Episcopal Church’s Executive Council in late January authorized its Committee on Corporate and Social Responsibility to join an attempt to convince Dick’s Sporting Goods to abide by the Sandy Hook Principles developed to stem the tide of gun violence.

A little more than a month later, the Pittsburgh-based retailer announced Feb. 28 that it would stop selling assault weapons at its 35 Field & Stream stores.

The company had removed them from all Dick’s stores after the Sandy Hook massacre. The company also said it would no longer sell firearms to anyone younger than 21, and it would no longer sell high-capacity magazines. And, Dick’s said, it has never and will never sell bump stocks that allow semi-automatic weapons to fire more rapidly.

Dick’s also called on elected officials to ban assault-style firearms, high-capacity magazines and bump stocks; raise the legal minimum age to purchase firearms to 21; require universal background checks that include relevant mental health information and previous interactions with law enforcement; build what it called a “complete universal database of those banned from buying firearms; and close the private sale and gun show loophole that waives the necessity of background checks. All of the company’s actions and its message to government officials fit into the Sandy Hook Principles.

The Episcopal Church, which owns stock in Dick’s Sporting Goods, invested through the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society, “the name under which the Episcopal Church is incorporated, conducts business and carries out mission,” began a collaborative effort in 2017:

After Executive Council approved the [council’s corporate and social responsibility] committee’s involvement, Grieves said, it joined with five Roman Catholic groups to engage Dick’s Sporting Goods in a dialogue about its gun sales.

That effort actually began in July 2017 when a representative of Mercy Investment Services Inc. wrote to Ed Stack, Dick’s chairman and chief executive officer, asking the company to report on actions, if any, it had taken “on elements such as those based on Sandy Hook Principles.” Mercy is the asset management program for the Sisters of Mercy and its ministries.

The retailer did not respond to the letter, Grieves said, and so Mercy, four other Roman Catholic religious orders and the DFMS filed a shareholder resolution. The filing occurred via the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, an organization that helps religious organizations pool their shareholder power to which both the DFMS and the Church Pension Group belong.

“They finally responded to that, and were agreeable to a dialogue” Grieves said.

“It was a very productive and very good meeting and they seemed to be very interested in having good procedures in place for how they sell these weapons. And so, in order to continue that dialogue we agreed to withdraw” the shareholder resolution, he explained.

Then, the Feb. 14 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, happened. Stack said that the company founded by his father had sold a gun to 19-year-old Nicholas Cruz, the suspect in the shooting that left 17 students and adults dead. That gun was not used in the school shooting but, according to Stack, that knowledge moved the company to action.

William McKeown, a CCSR member, said that it is important to remember that “the community of investors of faith has been working on gun safety for years.” The shareholder resolution with Dick’s Sporting Goods “was just one small piece of a wider effort, and no one thought then that it would be — or thinks now that it was — anything like a decisive act.”

“But it helped. The lesson: This work is worth doing.”

The full story, linked at the top, includes an overview of the present and past advocacy work by the CCSR committee, the Church Pension Fund and Office of Government Relations.

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Katrina Soto

This is an example of why church should be “political,”. Church should never just be a place where we go to feel warm fuzzies.

Lewis Smith

I for one will not shop at their stores anymore. It is there choice but I will support stores that support the 2nd amendment and the constitution. If you think no one needs a weapon, just ask Barack Obama why he was sending arms to Syria to arm the rebels. I do think we need to do something but disarming law abiding citizens is not right.

Jon White

Your logic here is a little unclear. First, no one is being disarmed. Dick’s isn’t going around and demanding that people return the weapons they bought – that’s disarmament. They are setting new standards because they don’t want to face the financial apocalypse they will suffer if a mass shooting gets connected to their store. Second, limiting what kinds of weapons may be purchased and who may purchase them is not the same thing as saying “no one needs a weapon.” They still sell guns and ammunition, Dick’s isn’t even suggesting that no one needs them because they clearly intend to keep selling weapons. Clearly, weapons have a place, soldiers need them – like the ones in Syria, law enforcement officers, hunters, etc. You’ve created straw men and made poor analogies; arguing against propositions that no one has made.

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