Delta not backing off NRA stance despite tax hit by Georgia

Ga. Republicans threaten Delta over NRA move

Delta Air Lines (DAL) on Friday said it is "troubled" by a vote by Georgia lawmakers to kill a state tax break to the Atlanta-based carrier to punish it for discontinuing discounts to members of the National Rifle Association.

The rift playing out in Georgia comes as an increasing number of businesses weigh in on gun issues as consumers react to the deaths of 17 people in a Florida high school just over two weeks ago. A number of major retailers have stopped selling weapons for those under 21, while others have stopped selling assault-style weapons altogether. More than a dozen companies, including Delta, have ended discount programs offered to NRA members.

Responding to a move by Georgia Republicans that could cost Delta millions of dollars in sales tax on jet fuel, Delta CEO Ed Bastian stressed that the carrier intends to remain neutral in the emotional debate reignited by the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School

In a public memo sent to the airline's employees, Bastian said Delta could have been viewed as "implicitly endorsing the NRA" if it hadn't end travel benefits for NRA members. 

"Our people and our customers have a wide range of views on how to increase safety in our schools and public places, and we are not taking sides," he wrote. "Our objective in removing any implied affiliation with the NRA was to remove Delta from this debate."

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The decision regarding the gun lobbying organization "was not made for economic gain and our values are not for sale," Bastian added, noting that the carrier is reviewing whether to stop offering discounts to any group "of a politically divisive nature."

Singled out by conservatives in the state where it is based, Delta has not signaled that it might want to find another location for its headquarters. Still, Connecticut's governor wants the airline to know Delta would be welcome.

Dannel Malloy, a Democrat whose advocated for strong gun control since the 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting, made his pitch in a Wednesday letter to Bastian, noting that Connecticut is "strategically located between Boston and New York City."

-- The Associated Press contributed to this report