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Saturday, February 24, 2018

Florida massacre: 12 companies cut ties with National Rifle Association amid calls for a boycott


A growing number of US companies are distancing themselves from the National Rifle Association in the wake of the latest school massacre in Florida. 

Petitions are circulating online targeting companies that offer discounts to NRA members on its website. #BoycottNRA was the second most trending topic on Twitter.

Members of the gun lobby have access to special offers from partner companies on its website, ranging from life insurance to wine clubs. 

For a second consecutive day companies listed on the site have cut ties to the NRA as it aggressively resists calls for stricter gun control in the wake of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, that left 17 dead.

The rental car company Hertz tweeted on Friday that it has notified the NRA that it is ending the lobby's discount program with Hertz.

The insurance company MetLife Inc. also discontinued its discount program with the NRA on Friday. The software company Symantec Corp., which makes Norton Antivirus technology, did the same.

Insurer Chubb Ltd. said Friday it is ending participation in the NRA's gun-owner Carry Guard insurance program, but it provided notice three months ago. The program that provided coverage for people involved in gun-related incidents or accidents had been under scrutiny by regulators over marketing issues.

Those defections arrived a day after the car rental company Enterprise Holdings, which also owns Alamo and National, said it was cutting off discounts for NRA members. First National Bank of Omaha, one of the nation's largest privately held banks, announced that it would not renew a co-branded Visa credit-card with the NRA.

Nearly two dozen corporations nationwide offer incentives to NRA members, according to ThinkProgress.com, a news site owned by the Center for American Progress Action Fund. 

Amazon.com Inc and other online streaming platforms are also facing demands to drop the online video channel NRATV, featuring programming produced by the group.

Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, founded after 20 first-graders were shot and killed at a school in Connecticut in December 2012, sent letters to Apple Inc, AT&T Inc , Amazon, Alphabet Inc's Google and Roku Inc on Friday, asking them to drop NRATV from their products. None of the companies immediately responded to requests for comment on the letters.

'We have been just disgusted by NRATV since its beginning,' Shannon Watts, founder of the Moms Demand Action group, told Reuters. 'It really propagates dangerous misinformation and inflammatory rhetoric. It tries to pit Americans against one another, all in an attempt to further their agenda of selling guns.' 

David Hogg, one of the outspoken student survivors of last week's attack who launched the #NeverAgain anti-gun violence movement, said the students would target any company with ties to the NRA, in addition to lawmakers who accept donations. 

NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre said in a blistering speech delivered on Thursday at the Conservative Political Action Conference that those advocating for stricter gun control are exploiting the Florida shooting which killed 17 people, mostly high-school students.

'Evil walks among us and God help us if we don't harden our schools and protect our kids,' LaPierre said. 'The whole idea from some of our opponents that armed security makes us less safe is completely ridiculous.'

President Donald Trump has aligned himself with the NRA, suggesting some teachers could be armed so that they could fire on any attacker.

American corporations are moving in the other direction.

On Friday, a large Wall Street money management firm said that it wanted to engage with major weapons manufacturers about what comes next.

Blackrock Inc., which manages $6trillion in assets, has become one of the largest stakeholders gun manufacturers like Sturm Ruger & Co., American Outdoor Brands Corp. and Vista Outdoor Inc. through indirect investments. 

The money is placed in index funds, so Blackrock cannot sell shares of individual companies within the index. Its fund clients invest in indexes that might contain companies like Ruger.

On Friday, spokesman Ed Sweeney said Blackrock will be 'engaging with weapons manufacturers and distributors to understand their response to recent events.'

Blackrock, through indirect investments, holds a 16.18 percent stake in Sturm Ruger, an 11.91 per cent stake in Vista, and a 10.5 percent stake in American Outdoor, according to the data firm Factset.

Shares of gun companies mostly fell in trading Friday.

AP/Mailonline

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