REI has placed a hold on future orders with Vista Outdoor brands, such as CamelBak and Giro, as a global gun control debate mounts.
The U.S. cooperative's decision comes the same day as its counterpart in Canada, Mountain Equipment Co-op, severed ties with several outdoor brands owned by the parent company of a semi-automatic gun and ammunition manufacturer.
Thousands of members have been pressuring both major outdoor retailers to do so in the wake of a Parkland, Florida, school shooting last month, in which the shooter used an AR-15 to kill 17 people.
Vista Outdoor, a company with many gun and ammo brands in its portfolio, also owns outdoor brands CamelBak, Bell, Bollé, Camp Chef, Jimmy Styks SUPs and Blackburn.
Vista, based in Utah, has not responded to our request for comment.
REI in a statement on the company's website Thursday evening said it has been in active discussions with Vista. The statement, in part, reads:
"REI does not sell guns. 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. In the last few days, we’ve seen such action from companies like Dick’s Sporting Goods and Walmart and we applaud their leadership...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.Companies are showing they can contribute if they are willing to lead. We encourage Vista to do just that."
David Labistour, MEC’s CEO, in a statement on the company’s website said that demonstrating leadership and leveraging the power of community are core values of the outdoor retail giant.
“With this in mind, we have taken time to listen to our members’ views, consult internally and reach out to others in our industry,” Labistour said. “From what we’ve heard, we know that no decision we make will satisfy everyone. We are in the midst of a complex and highly charged debate with as many opinions as there are people expressing them.”
Effective immediately, MEC is suspending further orders with Bollé, Bushnell, CamelBak, Camp Chef and Jimmy Styks. Existing inventory will be sold.
Members have reached out on all sides of the gun control debate, and Labistour in his statement mentioned the outdoor industry’s and his own ties with guns.
“I have proudly served in the military and grew up in a rural area where hunting was commonplace,” he said. “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.”
CamelBak on Thursday finally addressed the debate in its own statement. The company, bought by Vista for $412.5 million in July 2015, said the boycott centers on an incorrect assumption that the purchase of products supports the shooting sports.
“That is not the case,” the company wrote. “Our brand falls within the Outdoor Products segment of our company, which operates separately from Vista Outdoor’s Shooting Sports segment. Since 1989, CamelBak has been committed to forever changing the way people hydrate and perform. Our passion and love for the outdoors is unchanged. We are deeply committed to the individuals and communities we serve and we proudly partner with organizations to promote the enjoyment of the outdoors.”
The company asked that consumers stand by its 30-year reputation.
This is a developing story.