United and Delta cut ties to NRA as boycott movement spreads to global corporations
Delta and United - two of the largest airlines in the world - have joined a growing list of companies cutting ties with the National Rifle Association amid a growing boycott movement inspired by the Feb. 14 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School with a legally purchased AR-15 rifle.
Without context, the airlines' twin announcements on Saturday morning, Feb. 24, might look trivial: The end of a discount program for NRA members, which few outside the gun rights organization likely knew existed before the boycott efforts.
But because they follow similar announcements by car rental giants Avis, Hertz and Enterprise, the Best Western hotel chain, the global insurance company MetLife, and more than a dozen other corporations that used to contract, partner or otherwise affiliate with the NRA, the airline's move is the latest victory for the #BoycottNRA movement - and the latest bad omen for a gun rights lobby that had seemed untouchable less than two weeks ago.
The speed with which the companies have abandoned the NRA is also a testament to how abruptly the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, has disrupted U.S. gun culture.
Hours before the airline reversed itself on Saturday, a Delta spokesman had defended its discount for NRA members traveling to the group's convention in May. In a statement to the liberal outlet ThinkProgress, the spokesman had called the contract "routine" for large groups, adding that it "has more than 2,000 such contracts in place. "
The NRA claims 5 million members, takes in tens of millions of dollars each year through memberships, and devotes massive resources to fighting gun regulations in the name of constitutional protections that guarantee Americans the right to bear arms.
The group has faced public anger before - after the massacre of schoolchildren at Sandy Hook Elementary in 2012, for example. But it has always fought back against pushes for gun-law reforms, and efforts to significantly restrict firearms inevitably die out as public fury over the shootings ebbs.
But outrage over the Parkland shooting - sustained in part by politically active teenagers who survived the massacre - has shown no signs of dying out. Police say a former student killed 17 people with a legally purchased semiautomatic rifle, one of at least 10 guns he owned.
As calls for gun control have spread, the NRA has increasingly become a target of activists, with social media hashtags urging boycotts of any corporation found to be linked with it.
Delta and United are the latest to submit to the pressure.
First National Bank of Omaha, one of the largest private U.S. banks, may have been the first to respond publicly to the boycott calls. The bank had previously advertised the "Official Credit Card of the NRA," according to the Omaha World-Herald - a Visa card with 5 percent back on gas and sporting good purchases.
"Customer feedback has caused us to review our relationship with the NRA," the bank said in a statement published Thursday, eights days after the Parkland shooting. "As a result, First National Bank of Omaha will not renew its contract with the National Rifle Association to issue the NRA Visa Card."
Enterprise followed suit a few hours later. "All three of our brands have ended the discount for NRA members," effective March 26, the car rental company wrote on Twitter Thursday afternoon. Hertz, Avis Budget Group and TrueCar would soon join Enterprise and end their NRA discounts. So did movers North American Van Lines and Allied Van Lines.
On Friday morning, Symantec announced that the boycott movement had spread to the software industry. NRA members will now have to pay the same price for its anti-virus software as everyone else.
On the same day, Chubb Limited announced that it will stop underwriting "NRA Carry Guard," a policy marketed to NRA members who face legal or civil lawsuits after they shoot someone, which gun opponents sometimes call "murder insurance." A spokesman for Chubb told Reuters that the company had made the decision months ago, but its announcement of the fact on Friday only increased the perception of a boycott movement swelling against the NRA.
It has now spread across multiple industries and affected some of the world's largest corporations. The global insurance company MetLife said it has terminated discounts for NRA members. The hotel chains Best Western and Wyndham Hotels announced they are no longer affiliated with the NRA.
Many of these companies have faced a backlash from NRA supporters. And the gun lobbying group, which is funded largely by its own members, is unlikely to be moved by snubs from companies with which it had only loose and peripheral ties.
Also, not every company has yielded to the boycott effort. FedEx, for example, still gives NRA Business Alliance members up to a 26 percent discount on shipping expenses.
Gun-control organizations Moms Demand Action and Everytown sent a letter Friday asking five companies - Google, Amazon, Apple, AT&T and Roku - to cease streaming NRATV, saying "it's time for tech leaders to acknowledge their role in helping the NRA spread this dangerous content." But the streams remain.
Still, as more and more corporations break with the NRA, there are signs that the movement is swaying lawmakers as well as corporations. For example, Florida Gov. Rick Scott and other Republicans have endorsed banning assault rifle sales to anyone under age 21 - which the NRA opposes. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., on the other hand, was jeered at a recent CNN town hall for saying he would continue to accept political contributions from the gun rights group.
The NRA has not commented on the boycott movement. But its leaders spoke defiantly at public appearances this week, blaming the public groundswell on media manipulation.
"Many in legacy media love mass shootings," NRA spokeswoman Dana Loesch said Thursday at a conservative political conference. "Crying white mothers are ratings gold."
"They want to make us all less free," NRA chief executive Wayne LaPierre said when he took the microphone after Loesch.
The correct response to the Florida shooting, he said, was more armed security on school campus - not fewer guns in the United States.
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Story by Lindsey Bever, Fred Barbash and Avi Selk. The Washington Post's T.J. Ortenzi, Keith McMillan, Desikan Thirunarayanapuram and Steven Zeitchik also contributed to this report.