FARMINGTON — A Utah company is at the center of controversy for its supportive stance of the National Rifle Association and its gun manufacturing business.
Farmington-based Vista Outdoor has drawn criticism from one of its major customers for thus far refusing to offer any details regarding its position on the powerful, conservative lobbying organization based in Washington, D.C.
Vista Outdoor did not respond Friday to multiple requests for comment on the recent decision by Recreational Equipment Inc. — better known as REI — to halt new product orders until the matter is addressed.
The Seattle-based retailer, which doesn't sell guns, announced late Thursday that it will at least temporarily stop ordering ski goggles, water bottles, bike helmets and other products from some popular brands — including CamelBak, Giro and Bolle — because their parent company, Vista Outdoor, also makes ammunition and assault-style rifles.
The decision came a few hours after REI's Canadian counterpart, Mountain Equipment Co-op, took a similar step.
"REI does not sell guns. We believe that it is the job of companies that manufacture and sell guns and ammunition to work toward common sense solutions that prevent the type of violence that happened in Florida last month," the company said in a statement Thursday. "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 week, we have been in active discussions with Vista Outdoor, which has recently acquired several companies that are longtime partners of REI. These include Giro, Bell, Camelbak, Camp Chef and Blackburn. Vista also owns Savage Arms, which manufactures guns, including 'modern sporting rifles.'"
REI said it 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."
So far, Vista Outdoor has been silent.
An outpouring of customer concern over continued mass shootings has prompted MetLife, Hertz, Delta Air Lines and other major U.S. corporations to cut ties with the NRA, at some political risk. Kroger, L.L. Bean, Dick's Sporting Goods and Walmart have announced that they'll no longer sell guns to anyone under 21.105 comments on this story
Smaller companies have acted, too, including bike shops around the country that have announced they'll no longer carry Vista products.
Vista owns ammunition and firearms manufacturers, including Savage Arms, and it acquired outdoor-equipment companies over the last few years to complement its shooting-sports division, buying CamelBak in 2015 for $412.5 million.
The political battle is the latest to sweep up outdoor retailers like REI, which has long embraced a philosophy of social corporate responsibility but which also has more than 6 million members encompassing a range of political views.