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Why Major Companies Are Severing Ties With The NRA After Parkland Shooting

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

In the last 24 hours, several companies have severed corporate partnerships with the National Rifle Association - car rental companies, insurers and a major hotel group, among others. The hashtag #BoycottNRA has been the top trending topic on Twitter on and off throughout the day. To explain what's going on, we've reached Polly Mosendz who covers the gun industry for Bloomberg news. Hi.

POLLY MOSENDZ: Hi. Thank you for having me.

SHAPIRO: Explain what's happening with this boycott.

MOSENDZ: So we saw this pick up steam yesterday evening into this morning. It really is focused around a hashtag on Twitter, which is #BoycottNRA, which has been among the top hashtags on the website. And what folks are doing is they are calling on companies that partner with the NRA through their member benefits to sever ties. So this ranges from things like rental cars that might offer a discount to NRA members to hotel chains that might have a group discount for NRA members.

SHAPIRO: For people who are not familiar with this member benefits program, you're saying that people who belong to the NRA might pay less for a rental car or a hotel room or an insurance plan. And now those companies are saying they're just going to end that partnership program.

MOSENDZ: That's right. So it's comparable to any kind of other membership group where you get a discount just for participating. You can show your card, you get some kind of benefit from that. And this ranges from things that are simple like just showing your card in an establishment and getting 10 percent off to something a little more elaborate like having an NRA-branded credit card.

SHAPIRO: And that NRA-branded credit card actually was among the things that was canceled in this boycott.

MOSENDZ: That's right. And something that's really interesting about that credit card is they actually cited customer complaints in their decision-making process.

SHAPIRO: It seems as though all day new companies have been adding their names to this list. Do you think it's picking up momentum, or is this something that's going to subside pretty quickly?

MOSENDZ: I think it definitely picked up some momentum. You know, it started with a hotel company. Then, you got Enterprise there. And then this morning, we had MetLife say that they were going to break ties with the NRA. That's one of the largest insurance companies in the nation.

SHAPIRO: What kind of an impact is this likely to have?

MOSENDZ: You know, I think it's something a lot of people are noticing, but I don't think it necessarily is going to change NRA membership rates. These membership benefits might be nice, but I don't think that's really what drives somebody to become a member of this organization.

SHAPIRO: Beyond ending these partnership programs, pension plans are also saying they don't want to be involved with the NRA anymore in some cases. Tell us what's happening there.

MOSENDZ: Right. So in 2012, the CalSTRS, after the Sandy Hook school shooting, decided they wanted to divest from firearms companies. So just as they did then, we are seeing a little bit of a similar trend now. The Florida teacher's union, after they found out that their pensions are invested in firearms companies, also expressed frustration. And one of the members there said that perhaps it's better to invest our money in something else. They haven't called for a full divestment yet, but they're certainly frustrated with the situation.

SHAPIRO: I understand that the partnership programs might not be a reason that people join the NRA. If corporate America on a larger scale decides that it wants to get involved in the gun debate in opposition to the NRA, could that have an impact?

MOSENDZ: You know, I think that could definitely have an impact, but it remains to be seen how much they are going to get involved. We see institutional investors say, you know, perhaps we'll have a conversation with these companies, but opening the door to that kind of conversation is very different than pulling out an investment. So it really remains to be seen how much action they're willing to take because, of course, there is frustration from the other side. Those who are members of the NRA are going to be very frustrated. Perhaps they won't want to go towards those businesses or bank at those banks anymore if that happens.

SHAPIRO: What has the response from NRA membership been today as more and more of these companies pile onto the boycott movement?

MOSENDZ: You know, it's curious. If you look at that hashtag on Twitter, a lot of the folks using it are actually members of the NRA or are sympathetic to the NRA. They're kind of poking fun at it a little bit. So it doesn't seem like it's being taken extremely seriously from their point of view.

SHAPIRO: There have been a number of mass shootings lately. Why do you think this is only happening now?

MOSENDZ: You know, I think it's a combination that we've had a couple tragic incidents recently. We had the tragic attack in Las Vegas. We had a school shooting in Kentucky. Now, we have this event. So that's definitely part of it. The other thing I'll say is that you have students speaking up in this case, and I think that's been unique, and a lot of people are really listening to what they're saying. The president has had a dialogue with them as well, so that is just a little bit of a change in trend.

SHAPIRO: Polly Mosendz, who covers the gun industry for Bloomberg news, thank you for joining us.

MOSENDZ: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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