By John Foley
NEW YORK, Oct 30 (Reuters Breakingviews) - Mass shootings happen in an instant and grab headlines. A business and investment shift away from the firearms industry is happening more subtly. FedEx, the U.S. shipping group, is ending a program that offers discounts for business members of the National Rifle Association, the company confirmed to Breakingviews.
It's a quiet reversal: eight months ago, FedEx stood by the gun-rights lobby group as other companies scrapped deals. They were reacting to the NRA's stance after 17 students and staff members were murdered at a Florida high school by a former student. Companies including Delta Air Lines, United Airlines and car-rental firm Enterprise swiftly ended member discounts. At the time, FedEx said that while assault rifles of the kind used in most American mass shootings shouldn't be in civilian hands, it did not believe in "discriminating" between organizations it works with.
That, though, is still significant - perhaps more so than largely political gestures. It suggests the NRA no longer has the economic clout to inspire fear in the corporate world. The group nearly put gunmaker Smith & Wesson out of business in 2000 when it branded the company a "sellout" for agreeing to back stronger gun controls. Boycotts from NRA members followed, and Smith & Wesson's chief executive lost his job.
Gun-rights lobbyists have resisted both technology that could make firearms safer and no-brainer efforts like making more federal data on firearms incidents readily available. But companies are becoming less timid. When retailers Dick's Sporting Goods, Walmart and Kroger pledged to end sales of assault rifles earlier this year, their shares didn't suffer. As customers and investors change their views, businesses no longer need to take an overtly political stance - they can just follow the money.
- Shipping company FedEx is to withdraw its discount program for members of the National Rifle Association, the U.S. gun-lobby group, from Nov. 4, the company told Breakingviews.
- The decision is part of an adjustment to more than 100 discount schemes that don't meet specified volume targets, FedEx said in a statement.
- FedEx stood by its discount for members of the NRA Business Alliance in February, when companies including Delta Air Lines, car-rental group Enterprise and United Airlines announced they were ending such ties.
- At the time, FedEx said that while it opposed civilian use of assault rifles, it would not deny service or discriminate against any legal entity regardless of policy positions or political views.
- A gunman armed with an assault rifle killed 11 people in a synagogue in Pittsburgh on Oct. 27. There have been 12,098 U.S. gun deaths in 2018 through the morning of Oct. 30, according to the not-for-profit Gun Violence Archive.
FedEx February statement