REI to Pause Buying Brands Owned by Gun Company

MEC to drop Vista Outdoor products entirely, while REI puts any future orders on hold.

REI announced late today that is suspending future purchases of brands owned by Vista Outdoor, which manufactures guns and ammunition, including semi-automatic weapons through its Savage Arms brand. Vista owns Bell, Blackburn, Bollé, Bushnell, CamelBak, Camp Chef, Giro, and Jimmy Styks, among others. This morning, Canadian retail chain MEC CEO David Labistour said in a statement that effective immediately, MEC will cease ordering any Vista Outdoor products. It will continue to sell inventory in stock until it’s sold out.

Both the chains have been facing intense pressure from customers to respond in the wake of the shooting in Florida on February 14.

“Two weeks ago, 17 people lost their lives in a senseless and tragic school shooting in the U.S. The issue of gun violence and questions surrounding responsible gun use, ownership and manufacturing have made headlines around the world,” MEC CEO David Labistour said. “While these issues are seemingly unrelated to MEC, it has recently come to light that several brands MEC sells are owned by a corporation that has holdings in the manufacture of assault-style weapons.”

“Demonstrating leadership and leveraging the power of community are among MEC’s core values. With this in mind, we have taken time to listen to our members’ views, consult internally and reach out to others in our industry. 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.”

In a statement, REI said, “This week, we have been in active discussions with Vista Outdoor, which has recently acquired several companies that are longtime partners of REI…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.”

Bell, Blackburn, CamelBak, and Giro are all part of $2.5 billion Vista, and customers of REI and Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC), which many think of as the Canadian REI, have been urging them to stop carrying the brands. Vista paid $412.5 million for CamelBak in 2015 and $400 million for Bell, Blackburn, and Giro in 2016. It also owns Bushnell, which makes binoculars, telescopes, and GPS devices, and Bollé, Camp Chef, Cébé, Serengeti Eyewear, and Tasco telescopes.

Neither of the brands have addressed products made by Black Diamond, which is owned by Clarus Corp., which owns Sierra Bullets.

Earlier this week, MEC said in a Twitter post, “All day we’ve been listening to our members through email, telephone, social media, and in our stores. “We have over five million outdoor-loving members and thousands of you have reached out to us today. We’re hearing lots of diverse opinions on this topic.

“Many of you have told us you want us to immediately stop carrying products from any brands owned by Vista Outdoor, because of their support for the NRA and ownership of other brands that manufacture automatic weapons and ammunition. We’ve also heard from many of you who disagree: members who still want to be able to buy brands like CamelBak at MEC, and who think purchasing decisions should be up to individual consumers.”

The uproar stems from the killing of 17 adults and children at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, by a man using an assault rifle and the #boycottNRA response that has blown up on social media. The debate over limits on guns, high capacity clips, and bumps stocks has more volume and moment than in the wake of other mass killings. Yesterday, Dick’s Sporting Goods announced that it will no longer sell assault-style weapons or high-capacity magazines, and it also raised the minimum age to purchase guns to 21. Walmart, the country’s largest seller of weapons, quickly followed suit and added that it will stop selling toys and air guns that resemble assault rifles. Today, the grocery chain Kroger said it is raising to 21 the minimum age to buy guns at its Fred Meyer stores.

Last week, the movement to boycott brands themselves was sparked in part by cycling blogger and advocate Aaron Naparstek, who tweeted, “The same company that manufactures your CoPilot rear-rack child bicycle safety seat also produces the SavageArms MSR 15 Patrol assault rife.” Since then, Naparstek has continued to pressure companies to sever their relationship with Vista Brands, including by creating a petition urging REI CEO Jerry Stritzke to drop Vista brands

“REI is selling products and brands owned by Vista Outdoor, a company that not only supports the NRA but is using its SuperPAC to fund the campaigns of the Congressmen leading the assault on protected public lands. So, with one hand, REI is fighting the privatization and exploitation of public lands. With the other hand, REI is selling Vista Outdoor products that help fund the campaigns of the Congressmen leading the effort to hand over America’s public park lands and national monuments to mining, drilling, grazing and other corporate interests. 

“This is clearly unacceptable and must stop.”

At the time of writing, Naparsek’s petition had a little over 1,000 signatures. Another petition calling for REI to stop selling Vista Brands had more than 12,000 names. A petition on urging MEC to drop the brands has collected 50,000 signers.

Individual retailers that carry Vista companies and want to drop them are caught in bind, stocking valuable inventory and having to find another helmet or accessories supplier. The owner of Gladys Bikes in Portland, Oregon, Leah Benson, wrote on the shop’s Facebook page, ““This is frustrating and disappointing on a whole multitude of levels. Of Vista’s many brands, we currently only stock Giro helmets, and we had just placed a fairly sizable (for us) order with them. I’m not going to lie: This puts us in a tricky place financially. That said, there are a lot of things that are more important than money (for instance: human life); we’re committed to finding a way to not support them moving forward.”

A short time later, Benson emailed Bike Portland, saying she was dropping the companies from Gladys. ““We will no longer purchase products from companies owned by Vista Outdoors. Additionally, we will be donating proceeds from the remaining inventory we have of Giro helmets to Everytown for Gun Safety… I know that some folks will disagree with my opinions or tactics here, and I respect that, and won’t deny that this is a relatively easy decision for me to make since Gladys is small and our pre-season investment in these brands was not nearly as large as other shops in the area. I respect that every shop has good reason for the choices they’re making with regards to Vista; we all have different ways of existing in business and in the world.”

Vista Outdoor also contributes to politicians through its political action committee, with the largest amounts going to Utah representatives who are among the most antagonistic toward federal public lands. In 2016, the Vista PAC gave $103,925 to members of Congress, with Utah’s Rep. Rob Bishop receiving $5,000 and Rep. Chris Stewart receiving $6,000. On the Senate side, Vista gave $9,000 to Idaho’s Mike Crapo, who has a lifetime score of 6 percent from the League of Conservation Voters (low = anti-conservation), and Utah’s Mike Lee, who has an 8 percent score. It gave $4,200 to Oklahoma’s James Inofe, perhaps the leading climate change denier in Congress.


MEC statement

Brands owned by Vista Outdoors

Vista Outdoors financial profile

Vista Outdoor political contributions, 2016

Vista Outdoor political contributions, 2018

Leave of Conservation Votes scorecard for all members of Congress.

Photo by Simon Law


Steve Casimiro is the editor of Adventure Journal. Follow him on Instagram at @stevecasimiro.
Showing 15 comments
  • jim

    Dick’s sporting goods is pulling the plug on assault weapons from it’s field and stream stores!
    love it.

  • Carson

    As someone pointed out on Twitter – Would this be a good time to talk about who owns Lycra?

  • tom

    something doesn’t smell right here. seems to me you would boycott the product(s) that kill and not the entire line of merchandise……would you disown an entire family just because one of their sons or daughters did some heinous crime? methinks the root of these mass shootings is sometimes cultural and often times mental illness……

  • steven

    I signed the petitions and was joining the boycott (but I actually haven’t bought anything in the last two weeks anyway), but boy am I surprised that REI and MEC stepped up so quickly. Well done!

    @Tom, according to the article, Vista gave $100k in political donations (to anti-public lands and pro gun politicians). Some of that $100k must have come from Giro/Camelbak etc profits. So yeah, buying a $200 helmet from Kask rather than Giro probably equates to Vista’s political fund only dropping by a nickel, but that’s a start.

    Lets expand it to Blackdiamond. They sold POC to buy Sierra Bullets. A Swedish helmet/glasses/riding clothing company that focused on safety, to buy a company that makes bullets … nuts!! I’m buying a new tent at the moment, and that money is going to Big Agnes instead (probably through REI)

  • Robert Diefenbacher

    The thing I think that’s being forgotten is guns and ammunition sales pay for a lot of conservation and public access through excise taxes and hunting licenses that, if I remember right, the rest of the outdoor industry has fought tooth and nail to avoid paying.

    Not that I don’t think we need intelligent gun regulations, but trying to burn down the gun industry while also rallying for conservation and public access seems, at best, not well thought out.

  • Dan

    Bad move I buy plenty of gear from MRI AND I HAVE the little key fob for my purchases.
    I will buy from other sources .
    I do hope REI does not go bankrupt from such a bad decision .

    • steven

      @Dan – I don’t think REI have anything to worry about, as it appears the ”guns in the outdoors” crowd shop more at Bass Pro and Carbelas, and the ”adventure and tranquility” crowd shop more at REI.

      @Robert Diefenbacher – But that’s like saying we shouldn’t shut down the tobacco industry (to save lives), as tobacco pays taxes which partly go to fund healthcare. And also the boycott isn’t anti Vista, it’s anti Vista supporting the NRA and selling AR15’s. All Vista has to do, is support a sensible gun control organization (i.e. pro 2A, but anti 18 year olds buying AR15’s that they can legally fit a bump stock and a 30 round mag to) and sell hunting weapons, not assault weapons.

  • James

    Will not buy from REI again…….

  • Savvy Senior

    Having worked around the outdoor industry in climbing for over forty-five years, I’m disgusted at the quick dismissal of major significant, and very conscientious companies like CamelBak and Bell, purely because they happen to have suffered the arbitrary fate of being absorbed by a larger company. The small players have no say or vote in policies above their status in the hierarchy, I am certain, and furthermore, the merits of the small branches to me outweigh whatever contributions may indirectly go into the disliked areas. There are many more direct paths to addressing collective opinions regarding guns and firearm issues, including demanding the egregiously funded local, state and federal elected officials reveal how much they’ve taken in campaign funds; also, harangue legislators about the embarrassing hypocrisy of the NRA being tax exempt despite their flagrant, appalling political agenda that looks more and more like Big Tobacco’s every week. This boycott is a misguided feel-good act that does not serve the purpose intended. Should Patagonia refuse to sell through any outlet that caters to hunters? This all has the taint of a Trumpian tariff agenda that is poorly articulated, incompletely considered, and in the end more of a nod to the REI base, feeling morally superior and smug while dissing and further alienating the Trump core. Go to other websites and read the reactionary posts by the gun faithful to see how little effect this will have.

  • Hansman

    I’ve been a member if REI since1995. I think that just ended. I backpack with a group of guys that are also responsible shooters. Plenty of hunters/shooters shop at REI. Interesting enough, I walked into the Fairbanks REI two years ago with a handgun on my hip. (Pretty common in Alaska) Are they goimg to ban me next? We all have choices. I supported REI in many ways. Now WE as responsible gun owners have the choice to shop elsewhere. There are many options these days. Look at Sports Authority and Sportsmart…both gone. As REI jumps on the bandwagon and spreads the word, so it goes in the gun community. What they are doing isn’t solving anything. Another shooting will happen, just as drunk drivers will continue to kill inocent people, because the root problem never gets addressed. I guess it makes them feel like they are doing something. Obviously another liberal run company trying to advance it’s agenda.

  • Rick

    I can buy those boycotted products from other retailers and will do so from now on. In fact, I will start to buy my non-boycotted backpacking supplies from other retailers since REI now starting to remind me of Ben and Jerrys.

  • Calvin

    How does a petition for MEC get 50k signatures while REI only gets 12k? Canada is a tenth of the population and MEC is not as big as REI. maybe a bit of a conspiracy theory, similar to the funding of Canadian protest companies…

  • Falon

    Adios REI. REI doesn’t carry a lot of the type of sporting goods I normally shop for, but I visit the store about once a month mostly looking for specialty items. Thankfully I can find those items online if I really need to and at a better price. From now my money will go to those that support my views and not those who attempt to destroy them.

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