SEATTLE – Inside the REI mothership here on Easter Sunday, all one could do was wonder whatever happened to the big boycott.
A month ago, REI – one of the mega players in outdoor retail – made a huge deal about dropping Giro, Bell, Camelbak, Camp Chef and Blackburn and other products marketed by Vista Outdoors as a slap at the National Rifle Association.
Looking at the Giro bicycle helmets stacked up in the fancy store in the city where Recreational Equipment Inc. began as a ragtag co-op to help climbers buy cheap gear, it was hard to avoid asking an obvious question on the first day of April:
Was it all just an early April Fool’s Day joke?
Since very publicly calling out Vista on March 1, REI has said nothing about the company or REI’s planned boycott of its subsidiaries. Some have wondered if REI’s action was much more than a PR move.
What REI said a month ago was this: “This morning we learned that Vista does not plan to make a public statement that outlines a clear plan of action. As a result, we have decided to place a hold on future orders of products that Vista sells through REI while we assess how Vista proceeds.”
Those orders might well be on hold yet, but there’s no indication on the ground that REI is doing anything to stop the sale of Vista products.
REI demanded Vista come up for a gun-control plan because Vista owns Savage Arms, which manufactures guns that include “modern sporting rifles,” and has been a supporter of the National Rifle Association.
Vista has remained mum on the subject, though a couple of its subsidiaries have made statements saying they are not part of the company’s arms dealing.
“Bell, Giro and other brands released carefully worded statements that the boycotters largely rejected as insufficient. After their initial statements, REI and MEC have remained silent on next steps, deadlines, or consequences,” Outside online reported in late March.
Vista became a target of anti-gun activists in the wake of the Parkland, Fla., tragedy where a disgruntled former student armed with a semi-automatic a Smith & Wesson M&P 15 rifle and a duffel bag full of ammunition shot and killed 17 people.
The shooting led anti-gun activists and others to demand more gun control to stop any future shootings. The NRA, which has generally opposed additions to gun controls already in place, quickly became a target of the protest, and along with it businesses that did business with the NRA.
“With the boycott of Vista Outdoor, cyclists and others are simply putting their money where their mouth is—and declaring that they won’t be funding companies with whom they disagree on the crucial issue of gun control,” wrote Jason Mark, the editor of Sierra, the national magazine of the Sierra Club.
Mark applauded REI and Canada’s Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC) for helping to “move the needle” on gun control.
Outside later characterized the idea as “doomed from the start.”
The question of what can be done to prevent shootings like that in Parkland has become complicated in the weeks since the shooting, given revelations about the large number of government entities – including the FBI – aware of the dangers posed by accused gunman Nikolas Cruz.
As PBS reported, far more was known about the 19-year-old man than would be discovered in any normal background check for anyone purchasing a firearm.
“By early 2016, deputies were called after a neighbor’s son saw a disturbing Instagram post that seemed to suggest Cruz ‘planned to shoot up the school,’ PBS’s Joel Rose and Brakkton Booker reported. “At the time, deputies concluded that Cruz owned knives and a BB gun. They passed along that information to a school resource officer at Stoneman Douglas, but it is not clear whether any other steps were taken.”
The family who took Cruz in knew he had weapons, but took no serious measures to deny him access to those guns.
“In addition to reports made to both the Broward and Palm Beach sheriff’s offices, the FBI was also notified about Cruz,” PBS reported. “The first tip came in September when a Mississippi bail bondsman, who also makes YouTube videos, alerted the FBI that someone left a disturbing message in the comments section of a video that read: ‘I’m going to be a professional school shooter.'”
And yet, no one did anything. As much as raising questions about whether rules can be enacted to make Americans safer from random shootings, the Cruz cases raises serious questions about the attention given to existing laws.
Multiple warnings about the danger Cruz posed to other appear to have been ignored in Florida while authorities in Ohio last year arrested a 15-year-old on charges of attempting to induce panic after he fired a toy cap gun during a lunch period.