March 7, 2018
Think Before You Boycott: Guns, Public Land, and Vista Outdoor
The unintended consequences from REI’s resolution to drop CamelBak’s parent company
Holding such a diverse lineup of brands put Vista front and center in the debate over gun control last week. First, Canadian retailer Mountain Equipment Co-op vowed to discontinue selling Vista products in its stores because one of Vista’s companies, Savage Arms, produces six models of AR-style rifles. Savage is most widely known for producing bolt-action rifles and only got into the AR market about a year ago. Then, on Thursday, REI, an American outdoor gear retail giant that does not sell guns, said in a statement that it would put a hold on Vista Outdoor brands from all of its stores. (Full disclosure: Vista Outdoor is an advertiser with Outdoor Life magazine.)
The move was helped along by stories from Outside.com that covered mounting pressure being put on REI through a petition. Many folks didn’t realize that some of their favorite outdoor brands were owned by a parent company that also owns gun and ammo brands. The story also cited that a Vista Outdoor PAC contributed money to Utah representatives Rob Bishop and Chris Stewart, who have both pushed anti-public-land legislation. Another Outside story asked: “Say one of your favorite hydration-pack brands has a parent company that also owns a semi-automatic rifle maker. Should you stop buying the gear?”
Jesse Ladner started the petition, which has 24,000 signatures and states: “As an REI Co-op member, I’m asking my favorite outdoor retailer to take a firm stand and stop profiting from companies that promote and manufacture assault weapons.”
Regardless of how you feel about the AR-style rifles, or the Utah reps, there are some important facts missing from this story. And these facts are critical, no matter who you buy your water reservoirs from, now more than ever. In the past few years, the outdoor rec crowd and the hunting crowd have formed a tentative but powerful alliance to support the public lands we all love—and that our sports’ very existence depend upon. (And that alliance has been covered thoughtfully by Outside.com and many others.) The outdoor rec crowd needs hunters and shooters. It needs hunters to show bi-partisan support for federal lands, which are mostly located in Western, conservative states. The outdoor rec community needs shooters specifically, because shooters are helping to fund the habitat and wildlife that drive hiking, camping, and birdwatching (more on this later).