In the wake of the tragic shooting in Parkland, Fla, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Walmart and several other major retailers have announced changes in the way they’re going to sell firearms. Many are raising the minimum age of buyers allowed to purchase firearms to 21 years old. Dick’s has also decided not to sell assault-style rifles and high-capacity magazines.
But here’s the thing: as big as these two chains are, they (and the other two large chains Cabela’s and Bass Pro Shops) only represent less than five percent of gun store retailers in the country. The industry is highly fragmented and made up mostly of small, independent businesses–about 6,500 of them. Most of those business owners aren’t changing a thing.
“If I thought it was going to help the real problem, I would be willing to do things.” Nate Oberg, the owner of Fox Valley Firearms in Appleton, Wis. told the Post-Crescent. “But no, I would not follow Dick’s’ lead.”
Oberg is typical of the thousands of gun store owners around the country. He runs a small business and is complying with the law. “We’re very face-to-face with every sale,” he says. “If someone doesn’t look like they’re running on all eight cylinders, if they seem off kilter, we’ve told them, ‘we’re not selling to you.’ ”
Out of the 4,000 gun sales a year Oberg says this happens about once or twice.
Gun store owners run on much tighter margins than big chains like Dick’s and Walmart and – unlike those larger stores that sell thousands of other products – they significantly rely on the sale of firearms for their livelihoods. Although some,ike the ones I wrote about near the Florida high school shooting, are feeling public pressure, other retailers in the industry are looking at Dick’s’ and Walmart’s decisions as a potential opportunity.
“It makes more room for guys who want to offer those products,” said the owner of another Wisconsin gun store. “Not to get too political about it, but we don’t believe [what Dick’s and Walmart are doing] is the solution to the problem.”