East Tennesseans mixed on Dick's Sporting Goods' end to sales of assault-style rifles

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) - With the gun debate in the national spotlight, a major sports retailer made a big announcement Wednesday morning. Dick's Sporting Goods will no longer be selling assault-style rifles, they'll no longer be selling guns to people younger than 21 and will discontinue sales of high-capacity magazines.

More: Dick's Sporting Goods to end sales of assault-style weapons in all stores

The company had already removed the weapons from all Dick's stores after the Sandy Hook shooting in 2012, but announced they would remove them from sales at their 35 Field & Stream stores. 

This announcement also comes with criticism from some and praise from others. 

"For businesses to simply say, 'We're going to stop selling a certain product and make a political decision,' I'm not sure that's a good way for them to go. You know, where are they going to stop?" said Robert McClenagan.

"Getting rid of things that have nothing to do with self protection, like high volume magazines, assault rifles, I think that's kind of obvious. What happened in schools is a tragedy and there's different ways we can prevent it but that's a good start. At least they care," said Matt Blanchett.

Some, like Elizabeth Ogle, feel the whole issue is about getting the right firearms into the hands of the right people.

"I don't think it's a matter of we need to add more gun restrictions over and over again. I think it's more a matter of get the people what they need to protect themselves," she said.

McClenagan feels this change is both a business and political one. 

"I think anybody who really wants to be serious about this issue before they go off on one side or the other, they need to read and understand the Second Amendment," he said.

Blanchett hopes other big box stores take notice. 

"Obviously there's a fundamental problem with what's happening in our society and this stuff just keeps happening and it's becoming a commonplace where people are becoming desensitized to it," Blanchett said.

When asked about the store changing it's age to buy a firearm from 18 to 21 years old, it was a mix of opinions. Some say it's not right because if you can fight for your country at 18, you should be able to purchase a firearm. Others say it may not be a bad idea, but the issue at hand is complicated with many layers.

Scott Hale owns S.I.A. Firearms in Cedar Bluff. He says there's a misconception when it comes to firearms like the AR-15.

"To me an assault rifle is a fully-automatic gun which has been federally regulated since the 30s. So it requires a long background check and a tax stamp. So it's a highly regulated item," said Hale.

He says the AR before many of the guns we're hearing about does not stand for assault rifle, but rather the inventor of the gun which is ArmaLite.

Assault rifles are a popular item and Hale says responsible gun owners use them to sport shoot, hunt, long range shoot and more.

"Certainly I support any business to do what they think's best for them," he said about Dick's Sporting Goods' announcement. "I can tell you now that we will not quit selling AR style rifles. I just don't believe that it's going to do anything to make anybody any safer if we quit selling these rifles."

Hale says he absolutely feels there should be other restrictions to keep guns out of the wrong person's hands. 

"The reporting if someone is obviously having mental issues, I mean, if that information ws put into the TICS/NICS data system and those people were prohibited, we would absolutely have no problem with that."

Walmart announced in August of 2015 it would stop selling assault-style rifles including the AR-15. At the time the company said the move was not a response to mass shootings, rather was motivated by a slump in demand. Walmart announced on Wednesday they would no longer sell guns to those under 21.

Bass Pro Shops and Academy Sports and Outdoors both list assault-style rifles for sale on their websites.

Academy Sports and Outdoors sent the following statement:

"We serve a broad base of customers, and outdoor sports, including hunting and shooting sports, are an important tradition and recreational activity for many of our customers and their families. We are strongly committed to ensuring the legal, safe and responsible transfer of firearms. We follow all applicable regulations relating to the sale of firearms and regularly review our internal policies and processes to ensure our legal and responsible sale of firearms and encourage safe usage and ownership. As a Federal Firearms Licensee, we support the Fix NICS Bill to strengthen the background check system and require greater compliance with the law."

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