Some U.S.companies cut ties with NRA under mounting pressure
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Some U.S.companies cut ties with NRA under mounting pressure
(Adds MetLife and SimpliSafe ending NRA programs, second byline)

By Barbara Goldberg and Gina Cherelus

NEW YORK, Feb 23 (Reuters) - Half a dozen U.S. companies have cut ties with the National Rifle Association as gun safety activists on Friday intensified calls for a boycott in the wake of last week's Florida high school massacre.

The social media-fueled campaign has led a range of corporations, from a major insurer to three car rental brands, to sever relationships with the gun rights advocacy group.

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."

The U.S. Constitution's Second Amendment protects the right to bear arms. The NRA, which has long used campaign donations and effective lobbying to hold outsized political influence, argues that stricter gun control would erode individual rights. The group has not commented on companies cutting ties.

The question of gun control, and the NRA's role in opposing it, became the focus of national debate on Feb. 14, when Nikolas Cruz, a 19-year-old former student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, returned there and killed 17 people, mostly students, with a legally purchased AR-15 rifle, according to authorities.

TRENDING ON TWITTER

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.

Symantec Corp said on Friday it ended an NRA discount program for its LifeLock identity theft product, while Boston-based home security company SimpliSafe also said it terminated its discount program for NRA members.

Insurer Chubb Ltd said on Friday it would stop underwriting a NRA-branded insurance policy for gun owners that covers legal costs in self-defense shootings. Insurance company MetLife Inc also said it had ended an auto and home incentive program for NRA members.

Those decisions came a day after three rental car brands owned by Enterprise Holdings Inc said they were ending discount programs for NRA members. First National Bank of Omaha also said on Thursday it would not renew a contract with the organization to issue an NRA-branded Visa card.

The hashtag #BoycottNRA was the top trending topic on Twitter on Friday morning. The campaign is the latest effort by activists to deploy social media and use economic pressure to force change.

Similar drives helped convince Fox News to terminate television host Bill O'Reilly, after sponsors dropped his show in the wake of sexual harassment allegations, and the National Football League bowed to improve its handling of domestic violence accusations against players.

David Hogg, one of the 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.

Florida Governor Rick Scott, who has been endorsed by the NRA, announced a proposal on Friday to increase restrictions on buying guns and to strengthen school safety measures.

Shares of gun makers were broadly lower on Friday.

Approximately a dozen companies with marketing ties to the NRA, including FedEx Corp and Hertz, which offer discount programs, did not respond to requests for comment on Friday.

'BAD BUSINESS'

NRATV, which describes itself as "America's Most Patriotic Team on a Mission to Take Back The Truth," features programming that leans heavily on speeches by NRA chief executive Wayne LaPierre and spokeswoman Dana Loesch.

An online campaign using the Twitter hashtag #StopNRAmazon has also begun to pick up steam, applying pressure on Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos to drop the channel. Many of those tweeting are in the entertainment industry.

"Ironic how the @NRA likes to point a finger at what kids watch on TV ... while they spew vile rhetoric on NRAtv, streamed on @Amazon and aimed solely at boosting gun sales," wrote screenwriter Randi Mayem Singer.

Moms Demand Action posted an online petition using the hashtag #DumpNRATV.

"To be affiliated with them, whether you are a company or a lawmaker, it is not going to pay off in the long run," said the Moms Demand Action founder Watts, signaling the start of a broader campaign. "Doing business with the NRA is clearly bad business."

Angry student survivors of the shooting have confronted politicians from state lawmakers to U.S. President Donald Trump himself, demanding stricter gun control laws.

In response, the NRA and Trump have suggested arming teachers who have received training to deter attackers, a proposal that has been met with skepticism by teachers unions and gun violence experts.

(Reporting by Barbara Goldberg and Gina Cherelus in New York; Additional reporting by Suzanne Barlyn in New York, Andrew Hay in Taos, New Mexico, and Arunima Banerjee in Bengaluru; Writing by Joseph Ax; Editing by Frank McGurty and Grant McCool)

First Published: 2018-02-23 16:20:55
Updated 2018-02-23 22:25:45



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