Companies cut ties with NRA after Florida school shooting

Last Updated Feb 23, 2018 8:25 PM EST

Mounting consumer pressure is spurring a growing list of busineses to cut ties with the National Rifle Association after last week's deadly shooting at a Parkland, Florida high school.

Insurance giant MetLife (MET); rental car companies Avis (CAR) and Hertz (HTZ); and security software company Symantec (SYMC), maker of the Norton antivirus product, said on Friday over Twitter that they would stop offering discounts to members of the firearms group. That followed an announcement yesterday by First National Bank of Omaha, the largest privately held bank in the U.S., that it won't renew a contract to issue a branded credit card for the NRA. 

Enterprise Holdings, with three car-rental brands including Enterprise, Alamo and National, also is ending its discount program with the group on March 26. Another insurer, Chubb (CB), announced that it will discontinue a partnership with the NRA under which members qualified for a discount for a gun owners' policy, but said it had made the decision months ago.

A spokesman for Netspend, which offers an NRA-branded prepaid Visa card, said in an email to CBS MoneyWatch that its program is under review, without elaborating further.


ThinkProgress, a left-leaning blog, on Feb. 20 tweeted a list companies that have partnerships with the NRA. Updated today, the list shows red lines drawn through companies that have ended their relationships.

They're not the only companies under pressure: Amazon (AMZN) users, along with actress Alyssa Milano on Twitter, are pressing the company to drop its NRA video channel. Other companies with NRA relationships didn't immediately respond to CBS MoneyWatch inquiries about their plans for their own partnerships with the group.  

Such consumer campaigns can be effective, especially when spearheaded by millennials adept at using social media, said Mary Hunter-McDonnell, a management professor the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton school who studies social activism.

She points to campaigns such as #GrabYourWallet, started in 2016 to highlight concerns around now-President Donald Trump's comments on sexual assault, or by left-leaning groups earlier in the decade targeting the American Legislative Exchange Council on issues including "stand-your-ground" laws and voter identification. 

Generally, conservatives are less sensitive to social issues and are typically more focused on which company is offering the lowest price, Hunter-McDonnell said, adding that they don't tend to change consumer behavior "in the wake of conservative challenges to companies." 

Liberals, "especially young millennials," are much more apt to "price in social values when they are making their consumer decisions," she added.


"For any of these named companies that are trying to recruit young people, if they feel part of their growing consumer base is being hurt, especially for college-aged people and below, then it's really dangerous for them to have this overt connection," Hunter-McDonnell said. "Because these young people have ways of spreading these lists like wildfire. With all the social media available to activists today, this 'naming and shaming' strategy is extremely effective, especially for progressives."

The NRA didn't immediately offer comment and said it would respond shortly to an email inquiry from CBS MoneyWatch.

Wayne LaPierre, executive director and CEO of the NRA, on Thursday defended gun rights in a speech at  the Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Maryland, echoing a call by President Trump to arm some school teachers.

"Evil walks among us, and God help us if we don't harden our schools and protect our kids," LaPierre said.

Some financial experts said companies also risk angering customers by moving to distance themselves from the NRA. 

"Many will applaud the move, but NRA members are famously loyal and the organization has shown itself as being very good at mobilizing its members, so there's a real possibility of a significant backlash," said Matt Schulz, the senior industry analyst at CreditCards.com, in an emailed statement on First National Bank of Omaha's move to stop issue NRA-branded cards. "However, banks are in the business of managing risk of all kinds, and First National clearly sees this as one they're willing to take in the wake of the tragic school shooting in Florida."

Reaction on social media has been mixed. Some users pledged support for companies that keep their NRA partnerships, while others applauded severing ties. 

Some companies wanted their customers to know ties to the NRA were severed before the Florida shooting. Wyndam and Best Western hotels previously stopped offering NRA member perks, Business Insider reported.

PayPal, Square, Stripe and Apple Pay ended relationships with the NRA "years ago," notes the New York Times's Andrew Ross Sorkin in a recent column suggesting some big banks may be considering ways to restrict gun sales in a way Congress can't or won't.

The NRA's own website has a long list of company partnerships that offer perks available to members.

-- The Associated Press contributed to this report.