Gun violence in the US

Companies cut ties with National Rifle Association as #BoycottNRA movement gains steam in wake of Florida mass shooting

A bank, insurance provider, car rental service and other affiliated businesses have pulled their member rewards programmes from the gun lobby

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 24 February, 2018, 3:01pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 26 June, 2018, 3:28am

Several major companies – Enterprise Holdings, First National Bank of Omaha, Symantec, Hertz and Avis – have ended cobranding partnerships with the National Rifle Association as a #BoycottNRA social media movement picks up steam.

Enterprise – the parent company of car rental brands Enterprise, Alamo and National – cut ties on Thursday, when it discontinued an arrangement that offered discounts to NRA members. First National Bank of Omaha, one of the country’s largest privately held banks, also announced the end of a credit card cobranding deal with the NRA. The bank had issued what its ads described as the “official credit card of the NRA”, according to the Omaha World-Herald; the Visa card offered 5 per cent back on gas and sporting goods store purchases and a US$40 bonus card.

On Friday, Symantec announced in a terse statement on Twitter that it had also ended its discount programme with the gun-rights organisation. The company, which provides cybersecurity solutions worldwide, had been offering discounts on Norton anti-virus and malware protection, cutting prices on its premium package from US$110 to US$48 for NRA members.

Another car rental company, Hertz, soon followed suit.

Separately, insurance company Chubb Limited said it will stop underwriting “NRA Carry Guard”, a policy marketed to NRA members who face legal or civil lawsuits after they shoot someone. A spokesman for Chubb told Reuters that the company informed the NRA of the decision three months ago; the policy has faced criticism from gun-control groups who called it “murder insurance”.

The decisions came as the names of companies with NRA associations began circulating widely on the internet and social media under the #BoycottNRA hashtag after the deadly Valentine’s Day attack at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

A gunman wielding an AR-15 rifle killed 17 people and wounded at least 14 others, drawing anguished calls for a ban on assault weapons from students and families.

The mass killing focused renewed attention on the NRA, which is credited with blocking gun-control measures for years through millions of dollars in political campaign contributions and pressure from its large membership base.

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American businesses have become increasingly politically aware and have participated in boycotts over the past few years against states over LGBT rights. But the NRA is a well-funded membership operation devoted to a single cause – guns – and unlikely to be moved by the actions of companies with which it has such loose and peripheral ties.

Like many other organisations, the NRA has benefit deals with companies designed to make membership more appealing. The NRA “member benefits” page offers savings on a credit card, hearing aids, car rentals, travel, car purchases and prescription drugs.

FedEx, for example, gives NRA Business Alliance members up to a 26 per cent discount on shipping expenses.

FedEx has not said anything publicly about its NRA association in recent days.

Many are also calling for Apple, Amazon, Google and other streaming companies to drop the National Rifle Association’s digital TV channel in the wake of the mass shooting.

The gun-control organisations Moms Demand Action and Everytown sent a letter on Friday asking five companies – Google, Amazon, Apple, AT&T and Roku – to cease streaming NRATV.

“It’s time for tech leaders to acknowledge their role in helping the NRA spread this dangerous content,” the letter read.

The firms “have a choice of whether they do or don’t share incendiary rhetoric”, Moms Demand Action founder Shannon Watts said. “We’re asking them to reconsider.”

Responding to the letter, a spokeswoman for Roku streaming service, Tricia Mifsud, said: “Our customers can choose from thousands of entertainment, news and special interest channels, representing a wide range of topics and viewpoints.”

Roku company policy dictates that it removes channels that violate its policy against “content that is unlawful, incites illegal activities or violates third-party rights”. Asked if the company was considering dropping NRATV on these grounds, Mifsud replied: “To our knowledge, NRATV is not currently in violation of these content policies.”

A spokesman for AT&T’s DirecTV service, Eric Ryan, said the company has no transactional relationships with the NRA, and if there is NRA content on the platform it is only because a third-party has sold time to the group, such as with an infomercial.

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Apple, Google and Amazon didn’t respond to requests for comment.

The NRA has not commented on the announcements, however, the World-Herald quoted Rod Moeller, director of government affairs for the Nebraska Firearms Owners Association, saying the group will “be giving strong consideration to moving their accounts to a bank that hasn’t bowed to political pressure”.

The NRA claims 5 million members and corporate allies in the gun industry that provide the organisation with tens of millions of dollars per year. The group devotes massive resources to fighting gun regulations in the name of the Second Amendment to the Constitution, which protects the right to bear arms.