US companies start cutting ties with NRA as boycott calls rise

The National Rifle Association's booth inside the Conservative Political Action Conference Hub at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in Maryland on Feb 23, 2018.
The National Rifle Association's booth inside the Conservative Political Action Conference Hub at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in Maryland on Feb 23, 2018.PHOTO: AFP

NEW YORK (BLOOMBERG, REUTERS) - A call to boycott the National Rifle Association (NRA) became the top trend on Twitter as users of the global social media platform demanded that a variety of companies sever ties with the lobbying group.

The online furor comes a day after the NRA's leaders attacked the media and Democrats, claiming the fallout from last week's Florida high school massacre was being politicised.

One user, with almost a quarter of a million followers, tagged a slew of brands in his post, including NRA partners Hertz and identity theft protection company LifeLock. "There are only 5 million NRA members but over 300 million of us! Businesses have a choice whose business they prefer," tweeted  another.

On Friday (Feb 23), LifeLock owner Symantec, Hertz, North American and Allied Van Lines, and insurer MetLife announced they would break off from the NRA. "Symantec has stopped its discount program with the National Rifle Association," a spokesman said in an emailed statement.

A MetLife spokesman said "we value all our customers but have decided to end our discount program with the NRA." Security systems maker Simplisafe also dropped the gun group.

The five million-member NRA has partnerships with dozens of businesses, ranging from car rentals to hotels, and even offers a branded credit card. First National Bank of Omaha, which backs the card, said it would not renew its contract. Enterprise Holdings, which operates Alamo and National car rentals as well, said it had  ended its participation effective March 26. The Wyndham Hotel Group  announced it was "no longer affiliated with the NRA."

In a statement on Friday, insurer Chubb said it told the NRA three months ago that it would "discontinue participation in the NRA Carry Guard insurance program under the terms of our contract."

Still, many companies continue to have a relationship with the advocacy group, while others associated with it didn't return requests for comment., unmoved by the controversy, said it would stick by the NRA.

"Our company provides discounted rooms to several large associations, including the NRA," said Tim Hentschel, co-founder of Hotel Planner. "These associations greatly benefit our customers by buying discounted rooms from groups that might otherwise be charged a penalty by hotels for not using all of the rooms in their block."

Meanwhile, an online campaign using the Twitter hashtag #StopNRAmazon picked up steam, putting pressure on Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos to drop the channel. Many of those tweeting are in the entertainment industry.

The US Constitution's Second Amendment protects the right of Americans to bear arms. The NRA, which has long used campaign donations and effective lobbying to command political influence, argues that stricter gun control would erode individual rights. The group has not commented on companies cutting ties.

The NRA did not respond to a request for comment. 

Angry student survivors of the shooting have confronted politicians from state lawmakers to Us President Donald Trump himself, demanding stricter gun control laws.

In response, the NRA and Trump have suggested arming teachers who have received training to deter attackers, a proposal that has been met with scepticism by teachers unions and gun violence experts.

While this powerful supporter of guns is under attack, the gun industry is facing some blowback of its own. Florida Governor Rick Scott, a Republican, long a staunch opponent of gun regulations, announced his support for them, including allowing courts to prohibit the mentally ill from purchasing firearms, raising the purchasing age to 21, and banning the sale of bump stocks. Fear of gun control coupled with the backlash against the firearms industry has led stock prices to fall. American Outdoor Brands had dropped 8.8 per cent this week. Sturm Ruger was down 4.6 per cent. Vista Outdoor fell almost 9 per cent.