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Companies taking stance on firearms, sales debate after Florida shooting

HOUSTON – Academy Sports + Outdoors is responding to the news Wednesday that Dick's Sporting Goods, the nation's largest sporting goods retailer, will stop selling assault-style weapons like the one used in the Parkland, Florida, high school shooting.

Dick's said the company will also raise the minimum age for all gun sales to 21. Dick's will not sell high-capacity magazines that allow shooters to fire far more rounds than traditional weapons without reloading, as well as other accessories used with weapons similar to the AR-15.

"We don't want to be a part of the story any longer," Dick's CEO Ed Stack told to NBC News. "We looked at those kids, and we saw the grief that they were going through and how these kids organized to really have their voices heard. We talked amongst ourselves and said, 'If these kids are brave enough to do this, then we should be brave enough to make a stand ourselves.' "

The alleged Parkland shooter, Nikolas Cruz, bought a gun at Dick's, but not the AR-15 that he allegedly used in the school shooting there, the company said.

The company stopped selling military-style semiautomatic weapons in its Dick's-branded stores after the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting in 2012, but it continued to sell those weapons at its 35 Field and Stream stores.

Now, it will pull those weapons from all of its stores.

Academy, a Houston-based company that has historically prided itself on its loyalty to its local customers, said it will not change how its firearms are sold.

KPRC2 reached out to Academy and was the company's response:

"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." 

Some customers are now choosing their own loyalties.

"I would absolutely be more so for Academy than Dick's because of (their stance)," said shopper Ronnie Miller.

"It's definitely more of a reason for me going to Dicks," shopper Paige Jones said.

Meanwhile other retailers have followed Dick's lead. 

REI is the latest company that has decided to take a stand. The outdoors co-op is known for its public lands advocacy, liberal return policy and annual dividend for customers. 

The Seattle-based retailer, which doesn't sell guns, announced late Thursday that it will at least temporarily stop ordering ski goggles, water bottles, bike helmets and other products from some popular brands -- including CamelBak, Giro and Bolle -- because their parent company, Vista Outdoor, also makes ammunition and assault-style rifles. The decision came a few hours after REI's Canadian counterpart, Mountain Equipment Co-op, took a similar step.

Marketing expert, Betsy Gelb, a marketing professor at the University of Houston said companies may be looking to win the younger generation of future shoppers.

"Everybody is going after younger consumers because they have more years ahead of them to buy from you, and presumably have less rigid preferences for retailers right now -- they haven't been shopping the same place for 40 years," Gelb said.

Gelb said companies understand the importance of social media and the potential of boycotts.

"Should another shooting happen, you really don't want the headline be, shooter with gun bought at -- fill in the blank," Gelb said. "If you think about it, to be a part of a particular group not shopping at a store is the cheapest feel good in the world."

Walmart, the nation's largest retailer and a major seller of firearms, announced it would stop selling the military-style semiautomatic weapons in August 2015. Walmart will only sell guns and ammunition to people over the age of 21 from now on, the company said.

Walmart raises minimum age for firearm purchases to 21

The company said in a statement Wednesday that it decided to review its firearm sales policy "in light of recent events."

"Going forward, we are raising the age restriction for purchase of firearms and ammunition to 21 years of age. We will update our processes as quickly as possible to implement this change," a statement said.

"We are also removing items from our website resembling assault-style rifles, including nonlethal airsoft guns and toys," Walmart said. "Our heritage as a company has always been in serving sportsmen and hunters, and we will continue to do so in a responsible way."

Kroger, the nation's largest grocery chain, said it will stop selling guns and ammunition to customers who are younger than 21 years old. It's the third major retailer this week to impose new age restrictions on sales.

Kroger stores won't sell guns to anyone under 21

While none of the locations are in Houston, Kroger sells weapons and ammunition at 45 Fred Meyer stores located in four western states. Those stores sell general merchandise. The Kroger grocery stores do not sell weapons.

It is already illegal for licensed gun sellers to sell handguns to anyone under the age of 21, but it is legal under federal law to sell rifles of any kind -- including assault-style rifles -- to anyone 18 or older.

LL Bean was the fourth major retailer this week to also restrict all firearms sales to 21.