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On guns, companies are getting out ahead of the politicians

Those actions amounted to an act of defiance against the NRA and its allies in Washington who have vehemently opposed any ban on AR-15s and other semi-automatic weapons or a higher age limit for gun purchases.

"What we are seeing is a real shift," said Mimi Chakravorti, executive director of strategy at the brand consulting firm Landor. "I think right now, companies are acting ahead of the government because they are seeing that the changes are too slow."

Still, business leaders are not exactly leading the charge for the stricter guns laws. Their actions came in response to protests by the students who survived the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and to growing calls by consumers for boycotts against companies that do business with the NRA or gun manufacturers.

And their decisions didn't represent much of a sacrifice from a strictly business point of view. Most of Dick's business, for instance, is in other types of sporting goods, such as sneakers and basketballs. Guns and ammunition are estimated to account for only 8 percent of sales.

US trade gap rises to $56.6 billion, highest since 2008

The $36 billion January deficit with China was the highest since September 2015. The trade gap with Mexico narrowed to $4.1 billion from $5.4 billion in December.

Trump upset America's allies last week by vowing to slap tariffs of 25 percent on imported steel and 10 percent on aluminum. Europe has threatened to retaliate with sanctions on U.S. exports of blue jeans, bourbon and Harley-Davidson motorcycles, raising the risk of a potentially destructive trade war.

"He is not afraid of getting into a trade war although that is not what we want," Treasury Steven Mnuchin said in an interview Wednesday on the Fox Business Network. "We are just looking for fair and reciprocal trade."

Trump is also demanding a rewrite of the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement with Mexico and Canada in an attempt to reduce the U.S. trade deficit with Mexico and to shift more auto production north of the border.

The president views trade deficits as a sign of economic weakness and as the result of unfair practices by America's trading partners. Most economists say they are caused by bigger economic forces, mainly the fact that the United States consistently spends more than it produces.

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