Back after the horrendous event at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, I wrote that the emergence of the LGBTQ community in the gun violence prevention (GVP) space was not only a positive development for LGBTQ activism, but would be an important alliance for GVP insofar as changing our cultural views on guns might benefit from lessons learned by LGBTQ when it came to changing cultural views about gays. Now I’m beginning to wonder whether rather than forging an alliance between the two communities, the GVP folks might want to sit down and take some specific lessons from their new-found friends in LGBTQ.
And what has moved me to consider that perhaps LGBTQ activists might become the vanguard for GVP is a new strategy that is being rolled out by the Gays Against Guns group that, as far as I am concerned, is the non plus ultra way to deal with gun violence and other issues which demonstrate that it’s simply too easy in the United States for anyone to get their hands on a gun. The strategy involves boycotting companies and products that offer discounts and deals to members of the NRA, the list of such discounts partners now runs to more than 2,000 vendors on the NRA website, which also has a section listing discounts from major chains..
I want to make clear that what follows is not (read: not) in any way shape or form a suggestion or proposal to engage in any kind of boycott or other financial attack on the individual business owners who comprise probably 95% of the NRA discount list. For the most part these folks own gun shops or other, independent retail outlets whose inventory caters to the shooting crowd. Many, if not most are NRA members themselves and it would be wrong to suggest or even imply that such individuals should suffer in any way because the NRA takes extreme stances on certain issues related to the violence caused by guns.
On the other hand, the NRA website offers member discounts from major corporations all the way from A to Z. Want medical, life, property or insurance against cancer and other health risks? It’s all there. Hearing aids, automobiles, moving services, wine or cigars – it’s all there. Now maybe the NRA hasn’t yet reached the level of the AARP, which rewards its members with a free cup of coffee with any item bought at Burger King, but don’t for a moment think that such discounts aren’t being considered or planned.
The NRA obviously doesn’t have a membership list which compares to the AARP, but the Wyndham Hotel company, which operates nearly 8,000 hotels in 73 countries and includes such brands as Ramada, Travelodge and Days Inn, lists itself as an NRA discount partner in order to help fill its more than 680,000 nightly rooms. And like it or not, corporations, particularly large corporations are public entities, and they deserve to know if a marketing partner takes a public stance with which potential customers happen to disagree.
The reason I mention Wyndham is that Gays Against Guns has launched a boycott against the company’s brands and has also announced a boycott of Hertz and FedEx because all three companies offer discounts to members of the NRA. Money that major corporations share with the NRA through member discounts isn’t necessarily chump change. First Bancard, which underwrites an NRA Visa card, has sent the gun organization more than $24 million, which represents a cut of the underwriting revenue earned by people using the card.
Cash has a funny way of making more noise than words, which is why boycotts are often the most effective way for people to make their feelings heard. I never imagined that in my lifetime I would see an end to apartheid in South Africa, the freeing of Nelson Mandela and a dismantling of the deKlerk regime. But it happened in 1994 and boycotts in the U.S. and other countries helped pave the change. Would the boys in Fairfax sit up and notice if revenue from boycotted partners started to drift away?