The Companies Boycotting The NRA Show What Parkland Students Can Do
The National Rifle Association has come under renewed scrutiny in the past weeks, following the deadly school shooting in Parkland, Florida. While no federal gun control legislation has yet to emerge, the gun rights organization is facing backlash of a different, but no less potent, source — financial loss. In recent days, four companies ended their business ties with the NRA.
As part of their membership package, the NRA offers discounts and promotional rates at a number of businesses. On Feb. 20, Kira Lerner and Josh Israel published a list of those 22 businesses at ThinkProgress. And just three days after the list was published, several of those companies have announced they'll no longer partner with the NRA.
Of the severed business ties, the announcement from First National Bank of Omaha is perhaps the most financially consequential. The bank had offered an exclusive credit card for NRA members only; as of Thursday, it will not renew that offer. In a tweet, First National Bank cited "customer feedback" as the impetus for their decision.
The other businesses that ended their NRA partnerships are three car companies — Enterprise, Alamo, and National. All are owned by Enterprise Holdings.
Now, the financial blowback may not be over for the nation's largest and most politically influential gun rights organization.
BlackRock Inc. announced that it will be speaking with gun makers and distributors in the wake of Parkland "to understand their response." According to their website, BlackRock "is trusted to manage more money than any other investment firm." The group handled no less than $6.288 trillion in assets as of Dec. 31, 2017.
In an email to Reuters, company spokesman Ed Sweeney said BlackRock is restrained by its fiduciary duties from simply selling gun-related stocks. Their is focus instead "on engaging with the company and understanding how they are responding to society’s expectations of them."
Sweeney told CNBC in an email that the firm was "working with clients who want to exclude from their portfolios weapons manufacturers or other companies that don't align with their values." Given that BlackRock often has the largest stake holding in publicly traded U.S. companies, their ability to exert influence over the financial destiny of businesses is perhaps unparalleled.
BlackRock's public wade into the debate about gun control could spell real outcomes in the gun industry. For businesses, money usually speaks the loudest. And no company would want to lose the investment from a firm as powerful as BlackRock.
Demanding action on gun control, activists have proposed the wholesale ban of semi-automatic rifles like the AR-15 used by the shooter at Margory Stoneman Douglas High School. Polling indicates such a ban would garner majority support among the American public.
That said, detractors argue banning a specific class of semi-automatic simply encourages minor alterations to "legal" guns that would make them just as deadly. And a ban on semi-automatic weapons outright would mean making the majority of guns — including many handguns — illegal. It's why such legislation has never been introduced, even by a Democrat-controlled Congress following the Sandy Hook shooting.
A more productive route for gun control proponents, at least in the short term, seems to be pressuring the gun industry on the financial side. The companies that have cut ties with the NRA thus far cite input from their own customers as a key rationale for doing so.
That includes BlackRock, whose ability to influence the gun industry is unrivaled outside of major congressional legislation. And as anyone who has watched Congress over the past few years will likely note, Democrats and Republicans agreeing on major regulation is a farcical hope on today's Capitol Hill.