Ever heard of Vista Outdoor? It’s a $3 billion company that owns something like 50 brands. More than 75 percent of its business comes from gun and ammo sales—it’s one of the biggest ammo companies around. But in 2015, in a bid to diversify its holdings, Vista started buying non-shooting outdoors and bike companies. Vista now owns Camelbak, Giro, Bell Helmets, Bollé, Camp Chef, and Blackburn, among other brands.
In the aftermath of the Florida school shooting, some bike enthusiasts are now calling for an all-out boycott of the brand due to its ties to the gun industry, and, presumably, the NRA.
Aaron Naparstek, a cycling advocate who founded the site Streetsblog, began a series of tweets earlier this week alerting his readership to the relationship between many of their favorite bike brands and a massive gun company. They’ve since gone viral.
“The same company that manufactures your CoPilot rear-rack child bicycle safety seat also produces the SavageArms MSR 15 Patrol assault rife,” he tweeted.
“Going through Vista Outdoor’s list of subsidiary companies, I was amazed to discover that some of my favorite and most trusted bike gear brands — Giro, CoPilot, CamelBak and Blackburn, in particular — are now owned by a domestic arms dealer,” he said. “Moreover, Vista Outdoor owns these bike gear brands as a hedge against volatility in their arms dealing business. If there’s a dip in the sale of semi-automatic rifles and ammunition, they can still make money off of bicyclists like me. So, that bothered me. I like these brands and I feel bad for the people who work in these companies that were purchased by Vista Outdoor. But I am never going to spend another cent on bicycle gear brands owned by Vista Outdoor, a company that actively supports the NRA.”
In a 2016 article, Mother Jones magazine linked a rapid rise in Vista’s fortunes to a rush to purchase arms following mass shootings in the U.S. Vista has also spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on lobbying at the federal level for defense appropriations, and they’ve fought hard against the Toxic Substances Control Act in recent years. Vista also sponsors a PAC that has supported political efforts to allow concealed carry of handguns across state lines.
BlackRock, the largest asset management firm on the planet, holds a large stake in Vista, as well as other firearm companies, and is expected to make moves to address how those companies react to the Florida shooting, including removing gun makers from funds whose holders request that. A #BoycottNRA tag is trending on Twitter and several companies including Enterprise Holdings, the car rental conglomerate, and First National Bank of Omaha are ending special privileges and discounts for NRA members, as companies prepare for a potential public backlash against the organization.