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REI employs guilt by association

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POSTED March 7, 2018 12:59 a.m.

I like REI. I like Giro. I’m sold on Bolle sunglasses. And I also like Camelback.
The reason I like REI is ever since I got into serious hiking a number of years back they have never steered me wrong in equipment choices.
Now I’m not too sure I can count on REI to stock the best.
REI’s powers that be and I share a love for nature and — as it happens — a disdain for automatic weapons being sold to the general public. But apparently REI, which doesn’t sell guns, puts its disdain for automatic weapons ahead of my safety and well-being as a customer.
REI is no longing ordering Bolle, Giro, or Camelback products because the parent company that owns those firms — Vista Outdoor — also owns a firm that manufactures assault rifles.
Bolle happens to be the only company that makes wrap-around sunglasses that I can get prescription lens made that allow me to hike and bicycle with eye protection and still be able to see fairly clearly. 
I will wear no other helmet when I’m bicycling than Giro. I’ve been in four serious crashes wearing them including one where a person who saw me go down and land on my head was amazed I was able to get right up let alone still be alive. I passed around those helmets that I damaged in crashes during bicycle safety talks I did before elementary school assemblies in the 1990s at the request of the Manteca Police Department.
As for Camelback, there are other hydration systems out there but when a REI clerk at the now shuttered Stockton told me why the Camelback was the best and why it made sense for me to use it on solo trips in Death Valley’s backcountry, I was sold.
Now after REI’s decision to judge products they carry based on the conglomerate that might own the company that makes them and what else they sell, I’m not too sure I should trust REI to stock the best possible products.
And if REI is so worried about people getting killed with products from firms with corporate ties to companies whose equipment they sell, why stop at assault weapons? Should I expect REI to stop ordering from firms connected with companies that sell alcohol? More people are killed by drivers under the influence of alcohol in this country than in mass shootings. Besides, I’ve been hit twice by those who were eventually convicted of driving under the influence. REI, now that it has taken a moral high road by dropping products made by firms connected with companies that sell items that some chose to use inappropriately, they need to do the honorable thing and stop ordering backpacks, boots, bicycles, and kayaks from firms associated with another company that sells booze that purchasers may use irresponsibly.
This might sound a tab absurd but clouding your judgment about another person or a product via guilt by association is skating on thin ice.
Obviously I’m an REI member. The fact I will now have to drive to the Bay Area or Sacramento to browse what is still my favorite store won’t change that. Nor does the fact they’ve blacklisted Bolle, Camelback, and Giro. Because they are prescription, I need to order my sunglasses through an optometrist. If I need to replace a helmet or a hydration device I’ll just go somewhere else where I might find a thing or two I want or need that will eliminate a trip to REI.
What gives me pause was a chance chat I had over a year ago on the Pacific Crest Trail north of Sonora Pass. I remember it because the other hiker asked whether I got my Osprey backpack at REI and how much he liked the store. Then he made a quick comment about the upcoming election (this was in early September 2016) and how “all of the jerk Republicans” were going to destroy the environment. The guy was calm and polite but rarely does anyone escaping the madness hiking above 9,000 feet brings up politics or anything else like that in a passing conversation.
I may be jumping to conclusions, but I got the distinct impression that since we both had REI memberships and were hiking on the crest of the Sierra he assumed we shared the same political affiliations and views. It is eerily on the same track of rationale that REI deployed this week in response to guns in the aftermath of the Florida school shooting.
If they carried guns and decided to drop them, it wouldn’t have bothered me. But now that REI embraces guilt by association it has raised questions about their motives.
I have been a registered Republican since I was 18. Does that mean REI doesn’t want me as a customer?
According to guilt by association folks that means I don’t ever vote for Democrats, I’m anti-environment, I own a gun, I’m a big supporter of the right for everyone to bear AR-15s, I am a meat eater, and I’m against restoring the Hetch Hetchy Valley. I’m the exact opposite on all points.
That’s the danger of guilt by association. It assumes way too much.
REI is free to refuse to stock any product that can remotely be connected to the bottom line of a gun manufacturer. But they should be careful in sounding as if they are a step away from having a litmus test based on political and social issues to be an REI member.

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1 comment
Jruble: 1 week, 1 day ago

Dennis, Please stop perpetuating the myth that AR 15s are automatic weapons. The argument can be made that they aren't even assault rifles If you had done your due diligence as a reporter you would realize that owning automatic weapons has been banned for many years(since 1986 I believe). You have a responsibility as a reporter/editor to put forth accurate information even in your opinion columns. Now make it right and print a retraction.

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