US companies cut ties to NRA after school shootingHeat Profit
Airlines, banks, car rental companies, hoteliers and insurers have cut their ties to the National Rifle Association after the latest US school shooting, as pressure from customers and campaigners forced corporate America to take sides on one of the country’s most divisive social issues.
On Saturday, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines said they were ending the deals they had offered the NRA’s more than 5m members, joining a growing list of companies severing links with the gun lobby group since a teenager with an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
Delta said it would end its contract for discounted rates through its group travel programme, while United said it would no longer offer cut-price flights to the NRA’s annual meeting. Both companies asked the NRA to take their details off its website.
Their statements followed a social media campaign to boycott brands with NRA partnerships that had prompted similar moves from car rental brands including Avis, Enterprise and Hertz, hoteliers Best Western and Wyndham, insurers Chubb and MetLife, and Symantec, the technology group behind the LifeLock and Norton digital security brands. The speed with which so many companies have distanced themselves makes this one of the most effective boycott campaigns of recent years.
Few of the companies volunteered the reasoning behind their actions, with most announcing their decisions in terse tweets, but First National Bank of Omaha said “customer feedback” had prompted it to end the contract under which it issued an NRA-branded Visa card.
Social media sites, under fire for helping promote conspiracy theories and falsehoods about the shooting, have helped project the boycott campaign. Stoneman Douglas students Emma González and David Hogg were among those using social media to put pressure on those brands that had yet to end their NRA partnerships, including FedEx.
“Wait does @FedEx still support the NRA? Lets get this done tonight #nraboycott.” Mr Hogg tweeted on Friday, adding that tourists should boycott Florida over the spring break holiday unless its politicians enacted gun control legislation.
Amazon, Apple, Google and Roku also came under pressure from campaigners including Shannon Watts, founder of the gun reform group Moms Demand Action, as their digital video services carry NRATV, an NRA-owned channel which airs shows including Armed & Fabulous and Love at First Shot.
The targets of the #neveragain campaign have extended beyond companies with direct deals with the NRA to include large money managers and local pension funds — including those managing money for teachers — which own shares in gun manufacturers.
Among the companies reviewing their ties to gunmakers was Bank of America, which said on Saturday it was joining others in its industry “to examine what we can do to help end the tragedy of mass shootings”. A spokesman declined to comment on which other companies were involved, but said: “an immediate step we’re taking is to engage the limited number of clients we have that manufacture assault weapons for non-military use to understand what they can contribute to this shared responsibility.”
Companies taking a stance on one of the most sensitive topics in US politics risk a backlash from NRA members and others on the right of US politics, but opinion polls show growing public concern about America’s gun laws. A Quinnipiac University poll last week reported that 66 per cent of US voters supported stricter gun laws, up from 47 per cent in December 2015, with 97 per cent backing universal background checks and two-thirds wanting a nationwide ban on the sale of assault weapons.
The pressure on businesses to isolate the gun industry marks the latest occasion in which online campaigns have forced CEOs to speak out on political issues. Last year companies including Amazon and Nordstrom faced the #grabyourwallet consumer boycott campaign targeting retailers selling Trump brands, as CEOs such as Merck’s Kenneth Frazier resigned from Donald Trump’s manufacturing council and Walmart’s Doug McMillon criticised the president’s failure to repudiate white supremacist violence in Charlottesville, Virginia.