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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 13 December 2018

Airlines sever ties with gun lobby after Florida massacre

The National Rifle Association described the corporate pullout as a ‘shameful display’ of cowardice

Student survivors from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School arrive at a rally for gun control reform in Florida. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, File)
Student survivors from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School arrive at a rally for gun control reform in Florida. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, File)

Two US airlines became the latest major corporations to sever ties with the country’s man gun advocacy group amid the political fallout from last week's massacre at a Florida high school.

The exodus of corporate names, ranging from a major insurer to car rental brands and a household moving company, began after the National Rifle Association launched a counter-offensive against a student-led campaign for tighter US gun laws.

The NRA responded by saying its members were being punished, but would not be intimidated by what it called "a shameful display of political and civic cowardice" from some corporations.

In tweets on Saturday, Delta and United airlines said they were no longer offering NRA members discounted rates and they would ask the NRA to remove their information from its website.

The issue of gun control, and the NRA's role in opposing it, became the focus of renewed national debate after a former student killed 17 people on February 14 at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in the Fort Lauderdale suburb of Parkland, using an AR-15 rifle he had purchased legally.

NRA spokespeople have lashed out at gun control advocates, arguing that Democratic elites are politicising the deadly rampage in Florida to erode gun owners' rights.

In a statement on Saturday, the NRA said its more than five million law-abiding members had nothing to do with the failures of school security, the mental health system or both local and federal law enforcement that it said had caused the tragedy.

"Despite that, some corporations have decided to punish NRA membership in a shameful display of political and civic cowardice," the statement said. "In time, these brands will be replaced by others who recognise that patriotism and determined commitment to Constitutional freedoms are characteristics of a marketplace they very much want to serve."

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The attrition of NRA corporate partners began on Thursday when three rental car brands owned by Enterprise Holdings said they were ending discount programs, and First National Bank of Omaha said it would not renew the NRA's contract to issue a co-branded Visa card.

By Friday, the list of defectors grew to include Symantec Corp, which ended a discount program for its LifeLock identity theft product. Home security company SimpliSafe and Hertz also terminated discount programs.

The US Constitution's Second Amendment protects the right of Americans to bear arms. The NRA, which has long used campaign donations and effective lobbying to command political influence, argues that stricter gun control would erode individual rights.