Dick's Sporting Goods Suspends Sale of "Modern Sports Rifles"

The move comes after the shooting deaths of 20 students and six staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

By Patrick Healy, Jonathan Lloyd and Melissa Pamer
|  Tuesday, Dec 18, 2012  |  Updated 8:54 PM PDT
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Dick's Sporting Goods Suspends Rifle Sales

Jo Ling Kent

The gun racks at the Danbury Dick's Sporting Goods are empty after the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown.

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A nationwide sporting goods chain announced Tuesday it had pulled all of the guns from its store closest to Newtown, Conn., and had suspended sales of "modern sports rifles" across the country.

Locally, the Pittsburgh-based chaing has locations in El Cajon, the Midway District, Murrieta and other Southern California locations, according to the company's website.

A Dick's Sporting Goods in Danbury, Conn., is just 13.5 miles from Sandy Hook Elementary School, where 20 students and six staff members were killed in a mass shooting on Dec. 14.

Several residents in the Newtown area said they welcome these changes, but fear it's only a temporary measure and that guns will be too easily available in the area again soon.

In Los Angeles, shoppers at the store who spoke to NBC4 had mixed reactions but were generally supportive.

"I went in and spoke to the floor manager and congratulated him," said Gary Matlock, an Air Force veteran shopping at a Huntington Beach branch.

Dick's Sporting Goods, which operates more than 500 stores in 44 states, did not indicate when the stores would resume selling the guns. The company released the following statement:

"We are extremely saddened by the unspeakable tragedy that occurred last week in Newtown, CT, and our hearts go out to the victims and their families, and to the entire community.

"Out of respect for the victims and their families, during this time of national mourning we have removed all guns from sale and from display in our store nearest to Newtown and suspended the sale of modern sporting rifles in all of our stores chainwide.  

"We continue to extend our deepest sympathies to those affected by this terrible tragedy. "

The shooter, identified as Adam Lanza, 20, of Newtown, is believed to have used a Bushmaster AR-15-style rifle, a civilian version of the military's M-16. It is similar to the weapon used in a recent shopping mall shooting in Oregon and other deadly attacks around the United States. Versions of the AR-15 were outlawed in this country under the 1994 assault weapons ban, but the law expired in 2004.

The Bushmaster rifle is no longer available in some Walmart stores, according to a spokesperson. It is not for sale inside Walmart in Danbury, but ammunition and gun accessories are still available. Walmart does not sell guns in its California locations.

A Wal-Mart spokesman on Tuesday issued a statement that said "We have not made any changes to the assortment of guns we sell."

In addition to the Bushmaster, Lanza was also carrying two handguns—all of which were legally purchased by Lanza's mother, a firearms enthusiast.

On Tuesday, there were plenty of shotguns still on sale at a Dick's location in Huntington Beach, where staffers spoke of their pride in gun safety and security.

They had also pulled from sale paintball and airsoft guns deemed to look too much like modern sporting rifles or assault guns.

Meanwhile, Sport Chalet CEO Craig Levra said the chain has not sold firearms in half a century, and has decided to discontinue selling paintball and airsoft-type play guns that resemble real assault weapons. Sport Chalet has 54 locations in California, Nevada, Arizona and Utah.

Big 5 Sporting Goods, which operates more than 400 locations in 12 western states, did not respond Tuesday to an NBC4 request for comment about gun sales.
 

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