Ed Stack: taking a stand on gun control - Activate World

Ed Stack: taking a stand on gun control

Ed Stack, CEO of Dick’s Sporting Goods, sparked a national debate when he decided to stop selling assault-style firearms in February of 2018, after the deadly school shooting in Parkland, Florida. In his book, It’s How We Play The Game: Build a Business. Take a Stand. Make a Difference, Stack says the tragic shootings made him realize that, as one of the four largest U.S. sellers of firearms, his company was “part of the problem.”  

Lunchtime Conversations:

  • There continues to be no progress on legislative gun control. Given the recent actions of Dick’s Sporting Goods, Walmart, and others, will there soon be a tipping point in how corporations and retailers approach gun policy?
  • CEOs of 150 companies sent a letter to the U.S. Senate in September saying, “Doing nothing about America’s gun violence crisis is simply unacceptable.” What else can business leaders do to get lawmakers to take action on background checks and red flag laws?
  • What if business leaders directed their lobbying efforts and political contributions to representatives who supported background checks and red flag laws? Could business leaders counter the NRA in effort and funding? 


  • Ed Stack says he is not looking back. Indeed, he’s removed guns altogether from 125 of his 727 stores. And he says the whole hunting business is up for “strategic review.” 
  • On gun control, Stack said, “If we had a chance to do it all over again, we wouldn’t change a thing,” he said. “Meeting the families in Parkland … the one thing I promised them when I left was, we would keep the conversation going.”
  • One of the reasons he wrote his book was to help entrepreneurs, Stack explained, “to be able to understand if you do this, your business is not always going to go in a straight line. There will be ups and downs. Good days and bad days. If you really believe in it, you’ve got to stick with it.”


When Ed Stack took over the family business, it was only two stores in Binghamton, New York. Over three decades later, Dick’s Sporting Goods has around 750 stores with $8.5 billion in revenue, making it one of the biggest sports gear retailers in the country.

As Dick’s grew, it became one of the biggest sellers of firearms. Until 2012, when a gunman opened fire at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.

Stack ordered all AR-15 removed from every Dick’s Sporting Goods store across the country.

The backlash was swift from the NRA and gun advocates claiming that Dick’s was anti-second amendment and didn’t believe in the Constitution. The reality was they “just didn’t want to want to sell the assault-style weapons that could inflict that kind of damage.”

After the Parkland shooting, Stack learned that the shooter had purchased a shotgun at a Dick’s store. His response was, “’Even though it wasn’t the gun he used. It could have been. That’s when I said, we’re done.’”

Since Parkland, he and his wife, Donna, have been weighing the moral implications of continuing to sell firearms at all. They even met with the Parkland survivors in Florida without notifying the media. 

That experience moved Stack’s stand against guns one step further. He announced he would no longer sell any firearm to anyone under the age of 21 – a move many warned would impact sales. And it did, close to a quarter of a billion dollars. 

Stack says he is not looking back – he’s removed guns altogether from 125 of his 750 stores.

Sources: BloombergCBS NewsCNBCFortune, U.S. News