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Bike helmets, ski goggles swept up in debate

SEATTLE (AP)  Public pressure against companies connected to the gun industry following last month's school shooting in Florida has hit an unlikely target: REI, the outdoors co-op better 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.

"We believe that it is the job of companies that manufacture and sell guns and ammunition to work towards common sense solutions that prevent the type of violence that happened in Florida last month," REI said. "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."

An outpouring of customer concern over continued mass shootings has prompted MetLife, Hertz, Delta Air Lines and other major U.S. corporations to cut ties with the National Rifle Association, at some political risk. Kroger, L.L. Bean, Dick's Sporting Goods and Walmart have announced that they'll no longer sell guns to anyone under 21.

Smaller companies have acted too, including bike shops around the country that have announced they'll no longer carry Vista products. 

Vista, based in Farmington, Utah, did not return an email seeking comment. It owns ammunition and firearms manufacturers, including Savage Arms, and it acquired outdoor-equipment companies over the last few years to complement its shooting-sports division, buying CamelBak in 2015 for $412.5 million.

The political battle is the latest to sweep up outdoor retailers like REI, which has long embraced a philosophy of social corporate responsibility but which also has more than 6 million members encompassing a range of political views. 

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