Dick’s Sporting Goods, one of the nation’s largest sports retailers, announced Wednesday morning (Feb 28) that it will no longer sell assault-style rifles in its stores and will not sell any guns to people under 21.

On Tuesday evening, in an interview with The New York Times, Dick’s CEO Edward W. Stack admitted that in the days following the tragic school shooting in Parkland, the company discovered that the shooter, Nikolas Cruz, was one of its customers.

Even though the gun Cruz legally purchased at Dick’s was not used in the school shooting, the company realized that it posed a major potential PR crisis for the brand, and it could not be ignored.

Choosing to stop selling all assault-style riffles in its stores was a bold move for a retail chain that is also one of the largest gun sellers in the country.

“The whole hunting business is an important part of our business, and we know there is going to be backlash on this,” Stack admitted to The New York Times. “But we’re willing to accept that.”

However, so far, the public’s reaction to the announcement has been largely positive:

From a crisis communications standpoint, Dick’s was wise to have addressed the issue before it became a major news headline. By being proactive and getting ahead of the story, the company was able to turn a crisis into an opportunity to showcase its values.

By reacting swiftly and transparently, Dick’s Sporting Goods essentially inoculated its brand so that it would not be viewed as a contributor to the tragic incident, but rather, as an agent of change.

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