Mountain Equipment Co-op has taken a stand on gun control in America and cut ties with U.S. gun manufacturing company Vista Outdoor.
While Vista Outdoor sells all sorts of outdoor gear, not just assault rifles, CEO David Labistour said MEC was taking the stand because it is in the best interest of the Co-op to try and effect change.
MEC, which has a location in Langley’s Willowbrook Park, doesn’t sell firearms or ammunition in its stores but does sell other Vista Outdoor products.
The MEC decision came after 17 kids and staff were murdered in a school shooting at a Florida high school in mid-February. Shortly afterward, an online campaign was started, pressuring MEC to stop carrying the Vista Outdoor brand. More than 5,000 people signed a petition.
The Canadian based company also has stores in Vancouver on West Broadway and in North Vancouver. The co-operative has more than 5 million members.
Labistour said the company received more than 5,000 comments from its members, asking MEC to stop selling Vista Outdoor.
Quickly, MEC responded, saying it was taking everyone’s view points into consideration and would make an announcement by the first weekend of March.
On March 1, an open letter to MEC members from Labistour was posted on social media announcing the co-operative was taking a stand about responsible gun control by no longer ordering from Vista Outdoor.
In the letter, Labistour said that, effective immediately, it had suspended any further orders with the five brands owned by Vista Outdoor.
MEC carried Vista Outdoor products Bollé, Bushnell, CamelBak, Camp Chef, Jimmy Styks). Existing inventory will remain on the shelves until it is sold.
“My responsibility as CEO is to ensure that we make thoughtful, informed decisions in the best interest of our Co-op and effect change where this is possible and consistent with our presence in the marketplace,” Labistour wrote.
Another Canadian retailer, Running Room, with many stores in B.C. including in Langley, also stopped buying from CamelBak, which makes water bottles, but also has gun company ties.
Canadian big box stores that sell Vista Outdoors products, including rifles and ammunition, are continuing business as usual.
“On a very personal note, many of us come from parts of the world where we have witnessed the use and impact of guns first-hand. I include myself in that community,” Labistour wrote.
“I have proudly served in the military and grew up in a rural area where hunting was commonplace. I can readily identify with our members who are on all sides of this debate. At the same time, my personal experience has taught me about the power of engagement. I believe that engagement is the path to change, as tough as it might be.
“So, the questions before us are: what can a Canadian retail co-operative with more than five million members, a business that exists to get people active outdoors, do to effect positive change while continuing to ensure that we serve our members’ needs?”
Some retailers in the U.S. have also backed away from either selling assault rifles or buying from companies that make them.