Backlash against NRA, gun industry spreads in wake of Florida shooting

The National Rifle Association and the firearms industry are facing a growing backlash in the wake of the deadly Florida high school shooting, with calls to boycott the big lobby group spreading from social media to businesses.

Several notable businesses have either cut ties with the NRA or demanded measures to reduce violence

Over 20 businesses offer some type of incentive to National Rifle Association members in the U.S., according to reports. (Ted S. Warren/Associated Press)

The National Rifle Association (NRA)  and the firearms industry are facing backlash in the wake of the deadly Florida high school shooting, with calls to boycott the big lobby group spreading from social media to businesses.

Over the past week, several notable businesses have either cut ties with the NRA or demanded measures from the association to address gun violence in the United States.

First National Bank of Omaha announced Thursday it would not renew a contract with the group to issue NRA-branded Visa credit cards.

"Customer feedback has caused us to review our relationship with the NRA," said bank spokesperson Kevin Langin.

Meanwhile, rental car company Enterprise, which also owns Alamo and National car rentals, said on Twitter it would end its discount program for NRA members as of March 26. 

U.S. cybersecurity firm Symantec also took to Twitter on Friday to announce it would stop its discount program with the group.

Insurance giant Metlife cut discounts for members, while Chubb announced it would stop underwriting a controversial NRA-branded insurance policy for gun owners that covers legal costs in self-defence shootings.

Over 20 businesses offer some type of incentive to NRA members in the U.S., according to reports.

Wyndham Hotels and Best Western hotels, for example, have let social media users know they are no longer affiliated with the NRA, though they did not make clear when the partnerships ended.

Meanwhile, Inc. and other online streaming platforms are facing demands on social media to drop the online video channel NRATV, featuring programming produced by the group.

The swiftness of the corporate reaction against the NRA has differed from that of past shootings, including the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre that claimed 26 lives, and the killing of 58 people in Las Vegas last fall, said Bob Spitzer, a political scientist at SUNY Cortland and a scholar on gun politics.

Spitzer said the reaction was likely a reaction to the student mobilization that followed the Florida shooting, but he said it was too soon tell how significantly it will sway the country's wider gun debate

"If this is as far as it goes, it probably won't have any measurable effect. If other companies continue to [cut ties] it can start to have an adverse public relations effect," Spitzer said. "Usually what happens is that the storm passes, and the NRA counts on that."

Gun stocks

On Wall Street, the world's largest asset manager, BlackRock, said it would be speaking with weapons manufacturers and distributors to "understand their response" to the Florida high school killing last week that killed 17 people, in the second deadliest public school shooting in U.S. history

"We focus on engaging with the company and understanding how they are responding to society's expectations of them," BlackRock spokesperson Ed Sweeney told Reuters.

The investment company has over $6 trillion US in assets under management and is the largest shareholder in major gunmakers such as Sturm Ruger & Co. and American Outdoor Brands.

Shares of the two gun manufacturers recovered from steep losses in morning trading on Friday, with Sturm Ruger closing up 1.8 per cent, while American Outdoor Brands lost 1.2 per cent in New York.

Under pressure

The responses from businesses come as gun control activists and social media users continued to increase pressure on lawmakers and industry players to take action in response to the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

The hashtag #BoycottNRA remained one of the top trending topics on Twitter in the U.S. on Friday.

Online backlash heightened this week after NRA leaders attacked the Democratic Party and gun control activists, saying they were exploiting the Florida shooting. 

"Evil walks among us and God help us if we don't harden our schools and protect our kids," said NRA executive vice-president Wayne LaPierre at the Conservative Political Action Conference on Thursday.

"The whole idea from some of our opponents that armed security makes us less safe is completely ridiculous."

He accused Democrats and "elites" of wanting to "eradicate all individual freedoms."

Delta and United Airlines are also cutting ties with the group on Saturday. Both said they will no longer offer discounted fares to NRA members to attend their annual meetings, and both have asked the gun rights group to remove any references to their companies from the NRA website. 

The NRA is one of the biggest financial contributors in elections, spending nearly $55 million in influencing the leadership race in 2016, according to records.

Gun regulation

Yet despite his support for the NRA, U.S. President Donald Trump called for more gun regulation in the U.S. after meeting this week with students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas and their families.

He has commented and tweeted this week about measures such as background checks and increasing the age limit for purchases of some kinds of guns.

Several U.S. states have also announced new gun safety initiatives.

The Democratic governors for northeastern states of New Jersey, New York, Connecticut and Rhode Island said they would co-operate to seize and trace illegal guns and prevent dangerous people from making legal purchases. 

The states are vulnerable to trafficking, because they are located on the Interstate 95 corridor, which is the one of the most travelled highways in the U.S.

In Florida, Gov. Rick Scott announced proposed measures to address state gun laws, including raising the age to purchase firearms to 21, and banning the purchase and sale of bump stocks.

The following is a list of some of the companies that have cut ties or distanced themselves from the NRA:

First National Bank of Omaha — The bank announced that it would not renew a co-branded Visa credit-card with the NRA.

Delta and United Airlines -- They've asked the NRA to remove any references to them from the group's website and they will no longer offer discounted fares to NRA members to attend their annual meetings.

The Hertz Corp. — The rental car company ended its discount program for NRA members.

MetLife Inc. — The insurer terminated discounts that had been offered to NRA members on the NRA website.

Enterprise Holdings Inc. — The car rental company that also owns Alamo and National cut off discounts for NRA members.

Symantec Corp. — The software company that makes Norton Antivirus technology ended its discount program with the NRA.

Chubb Ltd. — The insurer announced it was ending participation in the NRA's gun-owner insurance program, though it provided notice three months ago.

Best Western — The hotel chain told multiple social media users that it was no longer affiliated with the NRA, though it did not say when that decision was made.

Wyndham Hotels — The hotel chain told social media users it is no longer affiliated with the NRA without specifying when that decision was made.

With files from The Associated Press and Reuters


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