The battle against gun violence and for sane regulation has changed. Polls show two-thirds of Americans want stricter laws.
For companies like Delta Air Lines, Hertz Global Holdings and MetLife, granting discounts to members of the National Rifle Association had always been smart business. Now, ending those partnerships is smart, and these and a number of other companies did so this week. Also smart is the decision by Dick’s Sporting Goods to stop selling assault-style rifles and high-capacity ammunition magazines, and by Dick’s and Walmart to no longer sell guns to customers younger than 21.
This flurry of corporate giants standing up against one of the most feared political and lobbying organizations in the United States is real change. These companies now see being aligned with the NRA will hurt more with customers than being allied with it could ever help.
Delta, the Georgia-based carrier that started out dusting cotton fields, has an identity deeply intertwined with the gun-soaked South. Delta and Atlanta depended on each other to become world-class together. Now some Republican politicians there threaten to revoke a planned $50 million sales-tax break on fuel if the company cuts ties to the NRA. In response, New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo tweeted, “Delta, if Georgia politicians disagree with your stand against gun violence, we invite you to move your headquarters to New York.” Hopefully, Delta realizes that Long Island is the nation’s cradle of aviation, and that Cuomo is not averse to granting big tax breaks.
Nikolas Cruz, 19, ended 17 lives when he went on a shooting rampage at a high school in Parkland, Florida, on Feb. 14. But with their live tweets, videos and messages, survivors of that shooting began to create a movement even as the trauma unfolded, lending a new and unforgettable poignancy to mass murder. And they’ve kept it up since, speaking out, standing up, demanding change, refusing to be silenced or cowed.
“We have heard you,” Dick’s Sporting Goods said of those young people in a statement. “The nation has heard you.”
Plans for marches and school walkouts are gaining steam. School districts are hiring armed guards to secure campuses. In highly regulated New York, Democratic state legislators are pushing for even more gun control, and forcing Republicans to either get on board or very publicly refuse. But in Washington, the politicians seem to be floundering. A televised White House meeting Wednesday with congressional leaders from both parties to address increased gun regulation became at times incomprehensible and convoluted. Hopefully, President Donald Trump’s tone as the meeting ended, signaling support for real change, will persist.
Pressure on politicians must continue. Universal background checks, age limits on sales, and limits on the power of guns and the size of magazines must come. But laws aren’t the only way to change society. Selling assault rifles next to soccer balls at sporting goods stores normalizes the guns. Refusing to sell them helps. Corporate partnerships with the NRA normalize extreme gun advocacy. Ending such deals helps.
If these corporations are right, and if the polls are, the politicians who also depend on public support will have to do the will of the people, too.