2-24-18 11:23 AM EST | Email Article
By Vanessa Fuhrmans 

Several companies have cut ties to the National Rifle Association after consumers took to social media to voice outrage against the gun lobby, days after a Florida high-school shooting left 17 people dead.

Insurance giants Chubb Ltd. and MetLife, cybersecurity company Symantec Corp., and Enterprise Holdings, which operates the Enterprise, Alamo and National rental-car chains, were among those that said they would end partnerships with the NRA.

Saturday, both Delta Air Lines Inc. and United Airlines, a unit of United Continental Holdings Inc., ended their discount travel programs with the organization. The airlines also asked the NRA to remove their information from its website.

Companies are reacting partly in response to a social-media movement to pressure or boycott entities with NRA ties, energized by the emotional calls for gun-control action from survivors of the shooting rampage at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., and students around the country. On Friday, the hashtag "#BoycottNRA" was among the top trends on Twitter nationally.

One of the first companies to sever ties was First National Bank of Omaha, the largest privately owned bank in the U.S. The bank said Thursday it wouldn't renew its contract with the NRA for a co-branded credit card, which was promoted as the "official credit card of the NRA." The NRA Visa card offered a $40 cash-back bonus, enough to pay for the gun lobby's $40 annual membership fee.

"Customer feedback has caused us to review our relationship with the NRA, " the bank said in a Twitter post, following which it decided not to renew its contract.

An NRA spokeswoman didn't immediately respond to an email seeking comment on the companies' decisions to cease such partnerships. But in a speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference on Thursday, NRA head Wayne LaPierre railed against "the elites" for renewing calls on gun-ownership limits. "As usual, the opportunists wasted not one second to exploit tragedy for political gain," Mr. LaPierre said.

In recent years, companies and their leaders have become vocal on issues such as transgenderism, immigration policy and gay rights. Amazon.com Inc.'s Jeff Bezos last month granted $33 million in college scholarships for illegal immigrant high-school graduates in the U.S. In the aftermath of North Carolina's now-repealed "bathroom bill," which required transgender people to use public bathrooms based on their birth sex, companies including PayPal Holdings Inc., Deutsche Bank AG and Adidas AG scuttled or froze plans to add jobs in the state.

However, the business community has been more reticent about wading into the gun-control debate. Many companies worry about the threat of boycotts from the NRA, which claims some 5 million members, said Larry Hutcher, a co-founder and managing partner at New York law firm Davidoff Hutcher & Citron, who has advised companies on public-relations crises.

That corporate reluctance may be changing as public support for some gun-control measures appears to be building, Mr. Hutcher said. A Quinnipiac University National Poll conducted earlier this week found that two-thirds of American voters support stricter gun control, the highest level of support measured by the survey ever.

"Companies are looking at the same numbers as we do," Mr. Hutcher said. "That's why they feel confident enough to terminate these relationships."

Enterprise Holdings, which had a partnership with the NRA to provide discounts to the association's members, said Thursday that its three rental-car brands would end the discount program on March 26. Hertz Global Holdings and Avis Budget Group followed with similar announcements on Friday.

Symantec said it would stop a discount program for its LifeLock identity-theft and Norton anti-malware software for NRA members. Chubb said it planned to stop underwriting NRA-branded insurance policies for gun owners, though it said it had made the decision several months ago.

The NRA, like many member associations, has had discount partnerships with numerous companies listed on its website for products ranging from wine to hotel reservations to FedEx shipping expenses. Lists of many of those companies have circulated on social media with calls to pressure them to end their relationships with the gun lobby.

FedEx didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

Other companies targeted in the boycott campaign include Amazon. Under the hashtag #StopNRAmazon, consumers on Twitter have demanded that the company ban NRATV, the gun lobby's news outlet, from being streamed on Amazon platforms.

Amazon representatives weren't immediately available for comment.

"I'm someone who will buy napkins from @Amazon rather than go to the store but if @Amazon, @Amazonhelp, and @JeffBezos don't stop streaming the violent rhetoric of NRAtv, I may have to leave the house again," tweeted one user.

Write to Vanessa Fuhrmans at vanessa.fuhrmans@wsj.com


(END) Dow Jones Newswires

February 24, 2018 11:23 ET (16:23 GMT)

Copyright (c) 2018 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
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