Editor’s Note: Dean Obeidallah, a former attorney, is the host of SiriusXM radio’s daily program “The Dean Obeidallah Show” and a columnist for The Daily Beast. Follow him @DeanObeidallah. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his.
It feels like the early days of the #MeToo movement, which caused a cultural shift regarding sexual misconduct – but this time, the problem at hand is gun violence, and the movement is called #NeverAgain. And this time, the courageous individuals leading the effort for change are teenagers from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
Just a few weeks ago, these young Americans were simply living the typical teenage life. But that changed on February 14, 2018, when a 19-year-old former student carrying a weapon of war entered their school with the intent of slaughtering people – and he did just that.
Those students who were recently on the front line of gun violence are now on the front line of pushing for laws that will save the lives of other young Americans. And clearly, many of these activists, who witnessed firsthand what an AR-15 can do to the body of a fellow teenager, view the NRA as a big part of the problem.
We saw that during CNN’s Town Hall last week, when 17-year-old Cameron Kasky said, “This is about people who are for making a difference to save us, and people who are against it and prefer money,” before asking the question that went viral: “So, Sen. Rubio, can you tell me right now that you will not accept a single donation from the NRA in the future?”
The audience exploded in response, taking to their feet and filling the venue with thunderous applause – and the look on Rubio’s face was unforgettable. He knew a cultural shift was happening right before his eyes and that the politics of old regarding guns were no longer going to be tolerated. And while Rubio refused to say that he would not accept NRA donations, he did publicly break from the NRA that night on two issues.
First, Rubio agreed to support raising the minimum age at which people can buy rifles, from 18 to 21; then the Senator announced he was re-evaluating his position on regulations for gun magazines’ clip size.
Since then, we have also seen Republican Gov. Rick Scott buck the NRA by agreeing to raise the age at which it’s legal to by any firearm from 18 to 21.
Now the teenage activists are leading the charge to persuade corporations to end their business relationships with the NRA.
And it’s working. Major corporations like Delta and United Airlines, MetLife insurance, and car rental companies like Enterprise, Avis Budget Group, and Hertz all announced an end to their partnerships with the NRA. FedEx has still refused to end its relationship with the NRA despite direct pressure from the students.
Given this cultural shift, the NRA may struggle to find many sponsors, beyond gun manufacturers, for its annual convention, slated for May in Dallas.
But, to be blunt, the NRA has no one but its leadership to blame for this turn of events. The NRA’s executive vice president Wayne LaPierre has opposed expanding background checks for gun buyers, claiming that records weren’t thorough enough to make expanded screening effective. However, background checks are supported by over 80% of Americans and a solid majority of NRA members. No wonder 67% of gun owners in a 2017 poll at least somewhat felt that the NRA had been “overtaken by lobbyists and the interests of gun manufacturers and lost its original purpose and mission.”
This boycott movement is the right thing to do. It may just be the most effective way yet to pressure the NRA leadership to finally embrace common sense gun laws that can save American lives, from increased background checks, to limiting the size of gun magazines to 10 bullets, to banning the sale of assault-style rifles.
And LaPierre and NRA spokeswoman Dana Loesch made it worse this week with their tone-deaf speeches at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC.) There was LaPierre slamming those who want to talk about gun laws and irrationally claiming that Americans in favor of more gun control are truly hell-bent on eliminating “all individual freedoms.” And then there was Loesch despicably declaring that “many in legacy media love mass shootings,” adding, “crying white mothers are ratings gold.”
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If you were a corporate CEO who had a diverse customer base, would you really want to do business with an organization whose leaders are spewing those types of divisive comments? After all, while there are some five million NRA members, there are more than 300 million of the rest of us.
Until the NRA’s leadership changes its attitude, corporations should sever all ties to the NRA, as the brave teen activists are advocating. It’s time corporations publicly make a choice between what they value more: the NRA or the lives of our children.