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Zaleski: Severing ties with the NRA is good business

Responding to businesses that have rebuffed the National Rifle Association, the NRA described the companies' actions as "a shameful display of political and civic cowardice." As usual, the NRA is wrong. The businesses are right. The companies displayed political and civic courage by facing down an organization that has done more than any other special interest group in recent history to divide the nation, stoke remorseless anger and violence, and catalyze the murder of children by guns.

CEOs and corporate boards are hearing from customers and stockholders, and for the first time are listening. They have seen polls that show 85 percent of Americans want corporations to "do the right thing." The executives who told the NRA to shove off did the right thing. They are the good guys in this unfolding chapter of the nation's miasmic gun history. Economic calculations surely figured into the decisions, but the moral high ground exists only where doing business and doing right converge. Nonetheless, taking on the NRA is risky because the bad guys will make mischief for the companies by calling on NRA lackeys in government, which is happening.

The bad guys are the cunning leaders and dupable minions/lemmings of the NRA and like-minded gun groups. The NRA's spin on the horrific school massacre in Florida and other recent mass murders sealed its salience as a radical sect that has debased the Second Amendment to advance self-serving priorities—gun industry money and political power— that have nothing to do with constitutional rights.

The NRA has been out of sync with a majority of Americans, including gun-owning Americans, for a long time. Now, able business people, who know the numbers, are separating themselves from the NRA's toxic deceptions. That's good news. The list got longer last week:

• Car rental companies—Hertz, Alamo, Avis, Budget, Enterprise and National—stopped NRA member discounts.

• MetLife ended NRA discounts for auto and home insurance policies.

• Two moving companies—Allied and North American—said they "no longer have an affiliate relationship with the NRA effective immediately."

• Delta Air Lines and United Airlines ended discounted rates for NRA members. Delta told the NRA to "remove our information" from the NRA website.

• Paramount RX said it is working to end NRA discounts for prescription drugs.

• First National Bank of Omaha stopped issuing an NRA-branded Visa card and ended its partnership with the NRA.

There are more. FedEx, Amazon and Google are under pressure to distance themselves from the NRA. Dick's Sporting Goods and Walmart adopted gun-sale restrictions the NRA opposes.

Companies that ditched the NRA are not run by left-wing anti-gun activists. Clear-eyed business people made business decisions. They know smart business means separating one's brand from poisonous associations. The NRA's predictable retort was to reaffirm its septic dogma.

Is the tide turning? Maybe enlightened business people can lead the way. Maybe cowering politicians will find the moxie to stiff-arm the gun lobby. Maybe, by marginalizing the NRA, the nation can begin a civil and productive discussion about gun violence.

Meanwhile, I'll patronize businesses that send the NRA packing, and I'll urge friends to do the same.

Zaleski retired in 2017 after nearly 30 years as editorial page editor of The Forum. Contact him at jzaleski@forumcomm.com or (701) 241-5521.

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