Financial partners drop NRA after Fla. school shootings

APTOPIX School Shooting Student Activists
School students from Montgomery County, Md., in suburban Washington, rally in solidarity with those affected by the shooting at Parkland High School in Florida, at the Capitol in Washington on Wednesday.

Membership has privileges. But National Rifle Association members have lost a string of special financial benefits since the Parkland high school shooting deaths in Florida.

Corporate partners have dropped the gun lobby and shooting-sports promotion group, deciding it is not good business to join their brands to the NRA.

The move follows public complaints about the gun lobby’s resistance to legislation whose backers have sought to limit access to “assault rifles” like the AR-15, a popular model among gun hobbyists which was used by killers at Parkland and in other school massacres.

The giant insurance company Chubb, a successor to Philadelphia’s old Insurance Co. of North America and still partly based in the city’s Washington Square section, said Friday it has discontinued a gun-insurance program that protected NRA members from lawsuits by people they shoot.

In a statement, spokesman Jeffrey Zack said Chubb told the NRA it was canceling the program in November. That’s a month after a gunman using AR-15 rifles shot more than 500 country-music fans from his room at the Mandalay Bay hotel in Las Vegas, killing 59. Chubb didn’t announce the cancellation then, but confirmed it when reporters asked Chubb about gun insurance after the Parkland gun murders.

MetLife, the giant New York life insurer, also said Friday it has canceled its NRA group-discount program.

The NRA’s credit card partner, First National Bank of Omaha, “will not renew” its NRA Visa Card contract with the organization, bank spokesman Kevin Langin said in a statement Thursday. He blamed “customer feedback.”

The group that controls Enterprise, National, and Alamo rental-car offices said in a statement it has “ended the discount for NRA members.”

Eneterprise rental rival Hertz announced on social media late Friday that it, too, is ending discounts for NRA members.

And internet-security platform Symantec said it is dropping a discount program that let NRA members buy Symantec’s LifeLock identity-theft service cheap, Reuters reports.

First National, Enterprise, MetLife, and Symantec were among brands targeted by ThinkProgress, a left-leaning activist organization mobilizing young people to protest corporate giveaways to NRA members.

“Affinity relationships” between college alumni and other membership groups and financial companies, airlines, and other companies grew in the 1980s and ’90s. Payments to the groups could total in the tens of millions; Penn State collected more than $30 million from MBNA (now part of Bank of America) from 1984-2010, federal documents showed.

In the early 1980s, the NRA had an affinity-card partnership with the former North Carolina National Bank, the predecessor to the current giant Bank of America Corp. But the bank terminated the card in 1983, as it began buying other banks around the country.

After that, “the program was available for decades — and nobody would touch it,” a banker still active in credit cards told me, asking that I not identify him by name.

“There was no question in our minds that the NRA program would have been big and profitable. But our management group would not consider it,” recalls Richard Vague, the affinity-marketing pioneer who headed credit-card marketing efforts at JPMorgan Chase & Co. and its predecessors in the 1990s, then headed upstart Wilmington-based card lender Juniper Bank before selling it to Barclaycard USA.

“At Juniper, we had the chance to get the NRA affinity relationship, and we passed,” added Vague, now an investor and philanthropist in Philadelphia. “We were still in a loss position and we needed the profits associated with a large affinity relationship.” Vague at first wanted the deal, but “morally resolute” colleagues brought the team “to a firm ‘No,’ because of the assault-weapons issue,” Vague concluded.

After Juniper and other banks declined NRA in the early 2000s, First National Bank of Omaha agreed to begin selling the cards. Profits helped to boost the privately-owned bank’s expansion in the credit card business, until the NRA’s reputation became too hot for the bank to continue.