Dick's Sporting Goods bans some gun sales; Walmart hikes age limit

WASHINGTON/NEW YORK, Feb 28 (Reuters) - Dick's Sporting Goods Inc said it will permanently stop selling assault-style rifles after the massacre at a Florida high school that has reopened a fierce debate over gun control in America.

The U.S. retailer of camping supplies, sporting goods and guns will also stop selling high-capacity magazines and will not sell any guns to people under age 21, Dick's chief executive, Ed Stack, said in an open letter on the company's website.

Hours later, Walmart Inc, the largest U.S. retailer, said it was raising the minimum age for the purchase of firearms and ammunition to 21 from 18. Walmart stopped selling assault style firearms and accessories in 2015.

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Guns on sale at Walmart and Dick's Sporting Goods
Guns for sale are seen inside of Dick's Sporting Goods store in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, U.S., February 28, 2018. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz
373812 01: Guns for sale at a Wal-Mart, July 19, 2000. Wal-Mart and one of their chief spokespeople, Rosie O''Donnell, are at odds over the issue of guns and whether they should be available at chain stores. (Photo by Newsmakers)
Guns for sale are seen inside of Dick's Sporting Goods store in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, U.S., February 28, 2018. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz
373812 02: Guns for sale at a Wal-Mart, July 19, 2000. Wal-Mart and one of their chief spokespeople, Rosie O''Donnell, are at odds over the issue of guns and whether they should be available at chain stores. (Photo by Newsmakers)
Guns for sale are seen inside of Dick's Sporting Goods store in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, U.S., February 28, 2018. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz
January 9, 2013- Walmart Meets With Biden On Guns. Wal-Mart Stores Inc said on Wednesday it would send a representative to Washington to meet with Vice President Joe Biden on Thursday to share the company's position on the responsible sale of firearms. (Photo by Michele Eve Sandberg/Corbis via Getty Images)
January 9, 2013- Walmart Meets With Biden On Guns. Wal-Mart Stores Inc said on Wednesday it would send a representative to Washington to meet with Vice President Joe Biden on Thursday to share the company's position on the responsible sale of firearms. (Photo by Michele Eve Sandberg/Corbis via Getty Images)
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The announcements came the same day that classes resumed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, where 17 people, mostly students, were killed two weeks ago in one of the deadliest U.S. mass shootings.

The accused gunman, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, legally purchased a weapon at Dick's in November, although not the type used in the shooting, Stack said. Cruz, a former student at Stoneman Douglas, is accused of using an AR-15 assault-style weapon to carry out the killing.

The massacre spurred a youth-led wave of protests, and state and national officials are considering whether to pass stricter gun control measures. The powerful National Rifle Association traditionally opposes such curbs, citing the right to bear arms under the U.S. Constitution's Second Amendment.

Dick's removed assault-style weapons from its Dick's-branded stores after the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut that killed 20 first graders and six adults, but continued selling them through another retail brand. Wednesday's move takes them out of its 35 Field & Stream outlets as well, Stack said, adding the measure would be permanent.

Some analysts said the 2012 decision did not hurt the retailer's sales, likely giving company executives confidence to make Wednesday's move. Stack said he knew the company's decision would upset some customers, but he cited the passionate response by the students and families in Parkland.

"We have heard you," he said.

In addition to instituting the age limit for buying guns, Walmart is removing items from its website that resemble assault-style rifles, including non-lethal airsoft guns and toys.

Stack said in his letter that Dick's respects the Second Amendment and law-abiding gun owners but was obliged to address a national gun epidemic that is killing too many children.

After the Parkland shooting, it was clear there were not enough systemic protections to prevent gun sales to people who are potential threats, Stack said, adding that Congress should tighten background checks to include relevant mental health information.

Dick's, based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, operates about 715 Dick's-branded stores across the United States. It was the latest company to take action after the Florida shooting. Other businesses have cut ties with the NRA and gun manufacturers.

Amazon.com Inc, the world's largest online retailer, has long prohibited the sale of firearms and explosives on its websites, as well as ammunition and gun accessories in most cases. It declined comment on the issue on Wednesday.

EBay said its policy prohibits the sale of firearms and high-capacity magazines of more than 10 rounds.

Since the Florida shooting, gun-control supporters have called on Amazon as well as Roku, Apple Inc and others to drop the National Rifle Association's programming from their streaming services.

Outdoor goods retailer Bass Pro Shops, which acquired Cabelas Inc last year and sells guns under both retail brands, did not respond to requests for comment.

Package delivery company FedEx Corp declined to comment on whether it would change its firearms shipping policy after the Florida shooting, while rival United Parcel Service Inc said it was not changing its policies.

(Reporting by Susan Heavey in Washington, Nandita Bose in New York and Sangameswaran S in Bengaluru Additional reporting by Jeffrey Dastin in San Francisco and Eric Johnson in Seattle Editing by Ben Klayman and Leslie Adler)

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