Gun sales spike, Dick's Sporting Goods pulls rifles after Newtown massacre

A Rock River Arms AR-15 rifle is seen

A Rock River Arms AR-15 rifle is seen with ammunition in Miami. The weapon is similar in style to the Bushmaster AR-15 rifle that was used during a massacre at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn. (Dec. 18, 2012) (Credit: Getty Images)

Dick's Sporting Goods Inc., the largest U.S. sporting-goods chain, suspended sales of modern sporting rifles nationwide after the shooting in Newtown, Connecticut as the massacre's victims are mourned.

Sales of all guns have been stopped at its store closest to the shooting, the Coraopolis, Pa.-based company said Tuesday in an emailed statement.

Dick's is pulling the products after 26 people -- mostly children -- were killed during Friday's shooting rampage at an elementary school in Newtown. The chain, which has more than 500 stores in the U.S., sells guns and ammunition in stores and not online, according to its website.


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"We are extremely saddened by the unspeakable tragedy that occurred last week," the company said in the statement. Dick's is removing the guns "out of respect for the victims and their families."

Dick's representatives didn't return phone calls or emails seeking more information on how long the ban would be in place.

SALES SPIKES

While Dick's suspended some gun purchases, Hyatt Gun Shop in Charlotte, North Carolina racked up its best day since it opened in 1959, according to Justin Anderson, director of online sales. Revenue at Hyatt, one of the largest U.S. gun stores, surpassed $1 million today when combining Internet and in-store sales, about 10 times the total on this day a year ago, he said.

The last sales spike like this came when Barack Obama was elected president in 2008, Anderson said. Sales weren't as robust when Obama was re-elected last month because the president hadn't backed major new gun laws, he said.

That's changed as Obama would support restoring a ban on assault weapons and requiring background checks at gun shows, White House press secretary Jay Carney said Tuesday.

The Bushmaster AR-15, one of the guns authorities say was used at Newtown, that sells for as much as $4,000 had almost sold out at Hyatt, Anderson said. The shop's buyer is looking for distributors to buy more.

"A lot of people are saying, 'I'm worried that I'm going to lose some facet of my gun rights,'" Anderson said. "They want to make sure they get this now while they still can."

The AR-15 platform of guns is a modern sporting rifle that looks like an M-16 military rifle, according to the website of the National Shooting Sports Foundation, a trade association for the firearms industry. The major difference is that the AR-15 is semiautomatic, meaning one round is released with each pull of the trigger, the group said.

AR-15 SALES

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. hasn't suspended the sales of guns at its stores and doesn't plan to do so, David Tovar, a spokesman, said in an email. The company doesn't sell guns on its website, Tovar said. While Wal-Mart removed a description of the Bushmaster AR-15 used in Newtown from its website, the company will continue to sell that model, he said.

Part of Wal-Mart's commitment to gun safety is its involvement in the Mayors Against Illegal Guns coalition, Tovar said.

"We remain dedicated to the safe and responsible sale of firearms in areas of the country where they are sold," he said.

Wal-Mart doesn't disclose how many guns it sells. The company gave some details during a meeting in November when it said revenue from guns in the first half of this fiscal year had gained 76 percent.

While Dick's doesn't provide gun sales either, chief executive Edward Stack said in November that the election had made guns and ammunition account for a larger portion of its revenue.

Cabela's Inc., an outdoor retailer that also sells guns, didn't return several calls seeking comment on whether it planned to change its firearm policies. Hunting equipment, which includes firearms, made up 41 percent of Cabela's sales in 2011, according to a company filing. The retailer doesn't provide sales data for just guns.

Dick's stock rose 1.7 percent to $46.35 at the close in New York. Bentonville, Ark.-based Wal-Mart rose 0.4 percent to $69.50. Cabela's, based in Sidney, Nebraska, declined 5.9 percent to $38.77.

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