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

The National Rifle Association 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 U.S.

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.

Symantec’s announcement on Friday for NRA members.

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.

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 in assets under management and is the largest shareholder in major gunmakers such as Sturm Ruger & Co. and American Outdoor Brands.

Shares of those two gun manufacturers were down two per cent in New York on Friday afternoon.

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.”

U.S. President Donald Trump is expected to speak at the same conference today after aligning himself with the group on Thursday when he suggested that some teachers could be be armed in schools.  

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, 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. 


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