In the aftermath of the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, a consumer campaign began urging boycott of companies that did business with the NRA. The First National Bank of Omaha was the first major business to announce that it would cut ties as a result of customer feedback, saying it was not renewing its contract to issue the NRA Visa card. Others followed, including airlines, hotels and rental car firms that had offered discounts to NRA members.
The NRA has become accustomed to public pressure, but as University of California at Los Angeles professor Adam Winkler told Vox, this is the first time it has been hit with such a broad boycott. We hope it marks the beginning of a consensus among responsible businesses that affiliation with militant opponents of gun control is not good for the bottom line.
It’s no mere coincidence that many of the firms cutting their NRA ties announced their decisions after NRA leader Wayne LaPierre’s chilling address last week at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference. It was not so much a discussion of public policy about guns as a paranoid call to arms against a fantasized socialist takeover of the United States, with dog whistles for Christian white supremacy thrown in. Punctuating that rant was the ugly suggestion by the group’s spokeswoman, Dana Loesch, that the media welcomes mass shootings because of some supposed bump in ratings. “Crying white mothers are ratings gold” was her exact phrase. Little wonder that businesses might want to keep their distance from such toxic rhetoric.
Opinion is mixed about how effective the boycott will be. Decisions by businesses and sports organizations not to operate in places that adopted laws discriminating against LGBT people clearly made a difference in Indiana and North Carolina. But public attention can be short-lived, and there can be blowback, as Delta Air Lines discovered when Georgia lawmakers threatened to withhold a promised tax break. Moreover, controversy has never been avoided by the NRA but instead welcomed as a motivator and a recruitment tool. “Some corporations have decided to punish NRA membership in a shameful display of political and civic cowardice,” the group said in a effort to paint as unpatriotic anyone who dares to disagree with its absolutist views.
What the NRA ignores is that the Constitution it so often lauds gives citizens the right to decide with whom to do business. The NRA’s alienation of a large mass of consumers is its own responsibility.