Late on Thursday, leisure brand L.L. Bean raised the minimum age for purchasing firearms at its stores, it announced via Twitter. The clothing and outdoor retail company is the latest of a wave of businesses taking that action, including Dick's Sporting Goods, Walmart, and Kroger. L.L. Bean made the announcement on Twitter in a reply to an apparent customer who asked the company to change its policy.
"Hi LL Bean. Superfan here. Please do not sell guns to those under 21," tweeted the account. "In the wake of this shooting we have reviewed our policy on firearm sales, and we will no longer be selling guns or ammunition to anyone under the age of 21," the company wrote back shortly after.
"These changes are a step in the right direction — they will likely prevent some acts of gun violence and keep some guns from falling into the hands of mass shooters," Adam Lankford, a criminal justice professor at the University of Alabama, tells Bustle in an email. "It's important to note that most mass shooters get their guns legally, so creating barriers to the legal acquisition of guns is an important step."
Lankford, who did a study of public mass shootings in the United States from 1966-2012, also noted that just 13 percent of the attackers he studied were younger than 21. Judging by that study, a majority of mass shooters would not be affected by retailers' moves to raise the minimum age for purchasing firearms at their stores.
Unless you live in Maine, you might not have known that L.L. Bean even had guns. They're only sold at its flagship store in Freeport and its offerings are limited to hunting and target shooting weapons, according to a statement from a company spokeswoman. That means no assault rifles, handguns, or other high-capacity guns.
Since the attack in Parkland, Florida, last month, Maine law enforcement have responded to multiple school shooter threats. This Tuesday, a 13-year-old boy in Farmington was put on house arrest after he was heard saying that he would "shoot up the school." Studies have shown that mass killings can galvanize copycats.
The conversation about gun violence in the United States often focuses on homicides. However, while the man who committed suicide in Gray hurt only himself, and while such tragedies doesn't approach the scale of the massacre in Parkland, they are still an enormous part of the issue. The Giffords Law Center reports that 41 percent of suicides of people under 21 involved a firearm in 2014. In fact, nearly two-thirds of all U.S. gun deaths are suicides, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
Suicide is the third leading cause of death in people aged 10 to 24, reports the CDC. The rates of suicide among young adults have increased steeply in recent years. Supporters of raising the minimum age for purchasing a gun argue that those extra years can bring more maturity and less emotional volatility, making a person less likely to use a weapon for violence — including hurting themselves.
"I am a member of the NRA, and I have a concealed carry license, I just don't see the need for young people. They can wait," a customer of Walmart told the Chicago Tribune. "There are other kinds of weapons that they can use to hunt or do whatever they want to do but they don't need military-style weapons certainly."
Vox points out that raising the minimum age only for assault-style weapons would not help much with the epidemic of suicide because most young people who kill themselves with firearms use handguns. Under federal law, you must be 21 to purchase a handgun from a licensed seller, but you can buy one from a private dealer when you're 18.
It remains to be seen whether Congress or state governments pass significant gun control legislation in the wake of Parkland. Studies show that states with stricter firearm laws have fewer gun deaths. For now, it's activists and, oddly, companies that are leading the charge.
Only one major gun retailer has not yet announced that it will raise its minimum age of purchasing: Bass Pro Shops, which also owns Cabela's and has more than 160 branches around the United States.
Morgan Brinlee contributed reporting.