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Private companies drop NRA partnerships
Photos courtesy: James Baca

By James Mejía

Another school shooting, another round of calls for further restrictions on gun ownership. Once again, the United States Congress refused to make substantial change. Not even the death of 20 first graders and six of their teachers in Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut in 2012 spurred national lawmakers to tighten gun access. It remains to be seen if the aftermath of the Valentine’s Day shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida is different. Thus far there are signs that students providing first-hand accounts of bloodshed in their high school might finally be the tipping point to change laws that allow easy access to guns.

The first sign that the school shooting could cause legislators to change federal law is the reaction of private business, some of whom have embraced their relationship with the National Rifle Association (NRA) while others have distanced themselves. Likewise, some state and local governments continue to cozy-up to the gun lobbying organization while others have distanced themselves with proclamations and statements by individual elected officials.

Dallas Mayor Pro-Tem, Dwaine Caraway called for the NRA to move their convention planned for Dallas, this May. “I am a believer in the Second Amendment personally. I have five guns… I am saddened that every time we turn around there is gun violence.” Caraway continued to cite gun violence deaths in Dallas including police officer fatalities and the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. “It is a tough call when you ask the NRA to reconsider coming to Dallas, but it is putting our citizens first and getting them to come to the table, and elected officials to come to the table and to address this madness now. Not tomorrow, no more meetings. Address it now.”

Barely two weeks after the Florida school shooting, Florida Governor, Rick Scott, signed into law provisions raising the legal age for gun purchasers from 18 to 21, requiring a 3-day waiting period and banning the possession or sale of bump stocks which allows the conversion of a semiautomatic gun to an automatic firearm. The law also increases some mental health funding and restrictions to those considered mentally impaired. As one concession to NRA proponents, the law also gives local control to cities and school districts if they want to arm teachers.

Heretofore known as a staunch NRA supporter in lockstep with Republican counterparts, Governor Scott’s new legislation caused immediate rebuke from some in his own party and an immediate reaction from the NRA who filed a lawsuit calling the measures unconstitutional.

Besides first-hand accounts from high school students that have dominated the gun debate, moves by private companies have signaled a break from traditional “do nothing” reactions to mass shootings. A significant group of companies responded to intense criticism and promises of boycotts by cutting ties with the NRA. Delta Airlines was one of the first and most vociferous about cutting their relationship with the NRA to offer convention travel discounts. In a statement, CEO Ed Bastian said the company tried to stay out of the gun debate and that the company would end deals for any politically controversial groups. In a written memo, Bastian explained, “On Saturday, Delta rescinded a one-time group travel discount for the National Rifle Association’s annual meeting, and asked the organization to remove our name and logo from their website. This decision followed the NRA’s controversial statements after the recent school shootings in Florida. Our discounted travel benefit for NRA members could be seen as Delta implicitly endorsing the NRA. That is not the case.”

The move was met with a backlash from their homebase Georgia legislature that eliminated a fuel tax break incentivizing the company to maintain their headquarters at Atlanta’s Hartfield Jackson Airport. Senator Cagle, who is the Republican front runner to become the next Georgia governor, maintained his support of the NRA in punishing Delta for what he considered an anti-NRA stance. In a television interview, he said Delta “singled out” the NRA and “that wasn’t right.” Delta lost a $50 million tax benefit as a result of the legislative action.

Delta strengthened ties with other companies while pulling away from the NRA. The airline announced a new partnership with Lyft – the more liberal of the car ride share services and a competitor of Uber. Their frequent flier members can earn credit and free rides by linking their Lyft account with their Delta SkyMiles account.

As the hash tag, #BoycottNRA went viral, other companies followed suit under public pressure. United Airlines also terminated a discount program for NRA members traveling to the annual meeting this year.

Numerous car companies joined the list. TrueCar which offers a system to purchase vehicles terminated NRA benefits and rental companies Enterprise, Hertz, Avis and Budget all ended special discounts for members of the NRA.

Others dropping benefits include cybersecurity company Symantec, home security company SimpliSafe, and insurance company MetLife. First National Bank of Omaha discontinued an NRA labeled Visa card for association members.

Coloradans responded vigorously on social media to decisions by Dick’s Sporting Goods and Walmart to raise the legal age to purchase firearms from 18 to 21 in their retail facilities. Dick’s also announced they would stop selling assault rifles, a move made by Walmart a few years earlier. It is known that the Florida school shooter recently purchased a firearm from Dick’s.

Dick’s Sporting Goods CEO, Edward Stack, issued a statement regarding their controversial break from gun sales, “We have been humbled by the calls, emails, tweets and posts of support that so many of you have sent following our announcement on Wednesday.” Stack continued, “We know that not everyone agrees with our actions, and we respect that. Even as strong supporters of the Second Amendment, we feel now is the time to have meaningful discussion about common-sense reform with the intent of finding a solution. Our thoughts and prayers are with all victims of gun violence. We have heard you loud and clear, and we promise to keep the conversation going.”





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