February 26, 2018 7:00 pm
Updated: February 27, 2018 10:55 pm

MEC reviewing relationship with brands owned by U.S. gun manufacturer amid public backlash

WATCH: The Vancouver-based Mountain Equipment Co-op chain is under pressure to drop certain products supplied by a company that also makes guns and ammunition. Ted Chernecki has the story.

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Canadian outdoor sports outfitter Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC) says it is reviewing its relationship with several brands, over concerns about their connection to the U.S. firearms industry — but isn’t ready to make a decision on whether to drop them.

It comes amid a public pressure campaign in the wake of the deadly Parkland, Fla. school shooting, in which a semi-automatic rifle was used to kill 17 students.

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“Senior management and the product team have been on the phone all day with brands and our peers in the outdoor industry,” reads a statement issued Monday evening.

“At this point, in time, we still have more questions than answers. We’re evaluating different courses of action and remain committed to figuring out the best path forward for our co-op.”

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MEC carries products manufactured by several brands such as Giro, CamelBak and Blackburn which are owned by Vista Outdoor Inc. Vista also produces and designs rifles and ammunition, and owns Savage Arms, which sells semi-automatic rifles similar to the one used in Parkland.

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Customers have taken to social media to pressure MEC to drop the brands, and a petition calling for the co-op to end its relationship with Vista has more than 10,000 signatures.

Edmonton mother Sarah Latha, who started the petition, said it success shows that Canadians want to have a voice in the gun debate.

“It’s hard to feel like you can make a difference with the $8-billion dollar arms industry, but this is a way that people have found a connection with their outdoor gear purchases and something which is pretty morally repugnant – the availability of semi-automatic weapons so widely.”

The pressure campaign prompted a high-level meeting of MEC senior management on Monday, who issued a statement Monday afternoon saying the company takes customer concern seriously, and that it is “asking some tough questions” in regards to its “commitment to responsible supply chain practices and transparency.”

On Monday evening it issued the second statement, saying that it had heard “lots of diverse opinions on this topic.”

MEC says members have reached out both in support of and opposed to dropping the brands, and that it was not prepared to make a decision either way yet.

“Some members question whether including these brands in our assortment has any impact on gun violence — while others see a direct link,” said the statement.

It said that while some members wanted no association with any company that deals with the NRA, others said they felt customers should have the personal choice whether or not to buy products from those brands.

MEC said it has also heard concerns from hunters and sport shooters, from people worried about the financial implications of dropping the brands and from people who “recognize the complex ownership structures of major conglomerates like Vista Outdoor.”

The co-op says it will be issuing another update on the situation on Tuesday.

-With files from Michelle Morton

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