If one gun retailer out of the 64,747 in the United States alone announces it’s raising the minimum age to buy guns from 18 to 21, it’s like a tree falling in the woods with no one around to hear it. When the tree falls in the woods of Maine, however, suddenly it’s a top story.
“L.L. Bean became the latest retailer to announce that it will no longer sell guns or ammunition to customers younger than 21,” CNN reported Friday morning. “In response to a tweet from one consumer asking the outdoors retailer to change its policy, the Maine-based retailer replied late Thursday, ‘In the wake of this shooting we have reviewed our policy on firearm sales, and we will no longer be selling guns or ammunition to anyone under the age of 21.'”
“The outdoor company joins a host of others increasing the minimum age for gun purchases in the wake of last month’s deadly Florida school shooting,” The Hill reported.
And because of the rule of threes, I present to you HuffPo’s liberally-optimistic copy on the issue: “Outdoor retailer L.L. Bean is raising its minimum age for gun purchases from 18 to 21, joining a growing list of American companies that are tightening their firearms restrictions in response to a mass shooting at a Florida high school last month.”
In the wake of this shooting we have reviewed our policy on firearm sales, and we will no longer be selling guns or ammunition to anyone under the age of 21. ^kw
— L.L.Bean (@LLBean) March 2, 2018
It almost makes the march of stricter gun control sound wholly inevitable. Soon, one gets the impression, American retailers will phase out guns and may even take Nerf weapons off the shelf, replacing them instead with gender-neutral toys and copies of Chelsea Clinton’s “She Persisted.” Mr. and Mrs. America will just turn them all in and, presumably, all violent crime will cease. Or not.
And then one reads the fine print on this “story,” which is buried six paragraphs and a tweet into CNN’s story: “Privately-held L.L. Bean has 37 stores in 17 states, but only its main flagship store in Freeport, Maine, has a license to sell firearms, according to records from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. It also does not sell any hunting rifles or ammunition on its website, although it does sell some accessories, such as rifle bags and gun lockers.“
The HuffPo also notes that “its inventory is specific to hunting and target shooting, so they don’t sell handguns or assault weapons.”
So, here’s a more accurate headline: “One kind of big store in Maine says you have to wait until your 21 to buy ammunition or a hunting rifle.”
Now, make no mistake: L.L. Bean’s Freeport store is huge. It’s open 24 hours a day, and it feels like pretty much an acre of dad sweaters, docksiders and overpriced camping supplies for the kind of middle-aged financial analyst whose hunting and outdoors experience consists of buying a fully-restored 1983 Jeep Grand Wagoneer in the hope that maybe someday he and his surly teenage son can connect over fishing, an activity which he doesn’t actually know how to do.
Also, it is still one store, and one which a school shooter wouldn’t be wont to visit, anyhow. After all, the number of people under 21 who can afford to shop in the store without their parents’ credit cards is roughly zero, and the number of people under 21 who, even with the aid of their parents’ AMEX platinum card, would want to shop there is also roughly that number. Aside from Cardi B and Snapchat, I’m not exactly down with what the kids like these days, but I’m pretty sure it’s not wool cardigans.
Plus, let’s not forget that L.L. Bean does the vast majority of its business through the internet and its catalogue, both of which do not, I repeat, do not sell guns.
So, who does this affect? No one, except morning show news producers who need a meaningless story about a hot topic to pad their time.
Then again, it’s difficult to see what difference this change will make even when implemented by major retailers like Walmart. These are private businesses, and it’s certainly their right to establish whatever rules they want in terms of who they want to guns to. However, we haven’t seen the numbers yet, although I suspect more robust initiatives on mental health would be substantially more effective than retailers raising the minimum age of purchase.
Whatever the case, there’s one thing I can tell you: No mass shooting was or will be stopped by what L.L. Bean has done. Of all of the futile gestures we’ve seen since Parkland, this might be the most meretricious — and the fact that the media reported on it as if it was a real story is yet another reason why I tend to get primary stabbing headaches every time I turn on CNN.
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