By Jim Smoger, news editor Wheaton Gazette
Guest Columnist

One of the more interesting parts of the recent gun safety debate is that change is occurring in the business community despite the inaction by lawmakers in St. Paul and Washington, D.C.

Large and small retailers nationwide are tightening controls and putting restrictions on the sales of assault rifles. Many view these as common-sense approaches to avoid being involved in a sale — even a transaction which is completely legal — to a shooter who ends up harming other people.

The latest of these, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported last week, is Fleet Farm which has stopped all advertising and promotions for assault-style rifles and high-capacity magazines, but will continue to sell them.

According to the Tribune story, Fleet Farm also changed its background check policy. Currently, federal law allows a sale to take place if the gun seller receives no response from the FBI within three days. Fleet Farm has changed its policy so that no sale will occur unless they receive a positive ‘OK to sell’ response from the FBI.

Some large retailers (Dick’s Sporting Goods and Walmart, for example) have also prohibited sales of all firearms and ammunition to those under 21 years old.

This is going too far in rural communities where hunting is part of the culture, but it indicates how sensitive the retailers have become.

Unlike the passage of legislation, retailers have the advantage of changing their policies whenever they please. If public opinion shifts, we would expect their policies to shift as well. But large corporations bring a considerable voice in the firearms debate to the table. Whether that  pressure will go beyond public relations is not certain.