In the wake of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut last winter, Groupon decided to put a stop, at least temporarily, to offering any deals related to guns. This, which took place in the middle of a very heated national debate on gun control, sparked a great deal of controversy, with gun rights advocates calling for a boycott on the company.
Now, about half a year later, Groupon is letting some gun-related deals go forward again. This will no doubt reignite the controversy surrounding the subject.
As you know, Adam Lanza fatally shot twenty children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary (as well as his mother, separately) in the infamous mass murder that took place in Newtown on December 14th. Though the gun control debate has raged for years, there had been no other time in recent memory in which those on both sides had been so vocal as in the aftermath of the tragedy.
Groupon’s move to ban gun-related deals came in January, as arguments had steadily elevated since the massacre. Michael Cargill, a gun rights activist, concealed handgun instructor, and owner of Central Texas Gun Works, called for a nationwide boycott of Groupon, saying his contract with the company was “abruptly terminated,” after Groupon’s then-CEO Andrew Mason “decided the company would no longer associate with any business related to firearms.”
As the controversy erupted, Groupon said it was reviewing its policies regarding gun-related offers. Groupon’s PR sent us the following statement at the time:
“All scheduled and current gun-related deals featured on Groupon North America, including shooting ranges, conceal-and-carry and clay shooting, have been placed on hiatus while we review internal standards that shape the deal inventory we feature. The category is under review following recent consumer and merchant feedback.”
It’s hard to say if it was really consumer and merchant feedback alone, or if the media had a role in Groupon’s decision, but either way, the statement contained no finality on the subject, and now, some gun deals are making their way back into Groupon’s offerings. The change of heart has gone largely unnoticed in the media, which is probably how Groupon would like to keep it, but Red Alert Politics followed up on the topic last week, and spoke with Groupon’s PR department:
After an expired coupon for a Colorado Shooting Range was included in today’s Groupon email blast for Denver, Red Alert Politics followed up with the company and discovered the change in policy. Today’s coupon was a mistake, but Denver residents might soon see real gun-related deals in their Groupon emails.
“We have decided to reopen certain firearm-related deals in specific markets where they’ve been frequently requested by both merchants and customers,” Nicholas Halliwell, a public relations officer for Groupon wrote in an email to Red Alert.
According to the report, Halliwell called the reintroduction of gun-related deals (which includes firing ranges and skeet shooting) a “pretty good decision”.
When we asked Halliwell for further comment, we got a similar statement:
After a carefully considered review, we have decided to reopen certain firearm-related deals in specific markets where they’ve been frequently requested by both merchants and customers. These deals are limited to skeet shooting and firing ranges.
Halliwell tells us that Groupon has already run “a small handful [of] skeet shooting and firing range deals in states such as North Carolina, Oklahoma and Texas.”
The decision to run them, he says, was made on a case-by-case basis. Again, he notes, this was taking into account feedback from merchants and consumers.
It’s unclear what exactly led to Groupon’s decision to start allowing gun-related deals again, and how much requesting needs to happen from merchants and customers to have these deals appear in specific areas.