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Carolina Herrera/MEDILL

A previous Combat City USA deal that once was available on Groupon Inc.'s website.

Groupon removes gun-related deals, stirring debate

by Carolina Herrera
Jan 23, 2013

Are you and your friends looking to go to the shooting range this weekend? Groupon Inc. is no longer the place to look for a reasonably priced offer.

As of Friday, Jan. 18, Groupon was no longer offering any gun-related deals. The company, which began offering shooting-range outings and conceal-and-carry classes eight months ago, has pulled all current and future firearm-related discounts on Groupon North America.

Combat City USA, a Florida-based gun range, had a daily deal with Groupon. Owner Dave Kaplan finds the recent news to be “despicable.” “We have canceled all ties with the company and are working to pull as many Groupon users as we can,” He said in an interview.

Kaplan blames the politics of Chicago for Groupon’s decision. “What do you expect from a company based out of Obama Chicago? It is low-class and typical of Democratic strategies.”

Combat City USA had attracted more than 250 purchasers on each of its Groupon deals, which included teaching how to use a firearm during simulated military scenarios.

The company had done three separate deals with Groupon in the last five months. The latest was posted Christmas Day and would have expired this summer.

In light of the mass shootings in Aurora, Colo., and Sandy Hook, Mass., President Barack Obama has made gun control a top priority for his second term. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is following suit as he advocates for stricter gun laws. He has ordered city pension funds to divest any shares in assault weapons makers.

Groupon is a website that offers daily deals for local and national companies. Explaining the move to drop gun-related offers, Julie Mossler, Groupon’s director of communications, said in a statement Tuesday that “based on performance and customer feedback, it's clear they're not a fit right now."

One such deal was for a $120 certification course to carry concealed weapons. The Groupon was for 63 percent off the original price or $45.

Other deals were offered as a package. A Georgia company had a $39 deal that included a shooting-range outing with an appetizer and margarita special at a Mexican restaurant afterwards. Although the pairing may seem strange, more than 620 of the offers were purchased.

Several past postings indicate that deals related to shooting priced below $50 were more popular with consumers, with anywhere from about 500 to more than 1,000 people buying the offers. Businesses with pricier bids attracted much lower numbers even though the deals were still discounted by about half of their original price.

Eight of Groupon’s former gun-related deals only brought in about $350 but had close to 5,000 purchasers.

“I would think it is a big market,” Chicagoan Scott Mett said Wednesday of gun-related promotions, “and there are people who pay for those types of deals.”

James Wile, a Chicagoan leaving lunch Wednesday afternoon, felt Groupon’s decision was about who its customers are in the long run. “It is up to the company to decide their audience and how they want to market themselves,” he said. “I don’t think it can be labeled as a good or bad decision for the company. Sure they might lose money along the way, but I mean it’s their image.”

Several local gun shops that offer similar services to those involved with the website declined to comment on Groupon’s decision.

However, some Chicagoans were a lot more vocal Wednesday about the decision.

“I don’t know how I feel about that,” said a female pedestrian as she headed home from work. “Not that I’m not for gun control, but shooting ranges are a controlled environment so I think these deals are outside the bigger issue.”

Mett agrees the decision may not be a beneficial move for the company. “They’re cutting out an entire area, and a group of people who were willing to buy those deals,” he said. “Groupon could use the money.”