Readers Write: Corporate response offers new hope for gun control

Readers Write: Corporate response offers new hope for gun control

We have tremendous…admiration for the students…making their voices heard regarding gun violence in schools…We have heard you. The nation has heard you.

Edward Stack, CEO

Dick’s Sporting Goods

 Ask anyone what is different about our reaction to the Parkland, Fla., shooting, and the answer you’re likely to hear is that the student reaction is different.

These heroic youngsters are sick and tired of the usual blather about empathy and sympathy. They are demanding action, not words, and they have gone to Washington, D.C. and Tallahassee, Fla., to meet with legislators and make their case.

Many of us thought that after Newtown where five to seven year olds were slaughtered we would see some action in our nation’s capital,  but six year olds could not make the case the way articulate high school students have.

I’m suggesting that common sense gun control is more likely to come about because of economic pressure from corporations  rather than students’ determination and eloquence. What I am contending is that “money” may get the N.R.A. to change its tune.

After all the  other mass shootings, corporations were silent. But this time, it is different.

The N.R.A. has about four million members who pay $40 annually. In addition to membership, they receive a magazine, a gun owner liability policy, and savings on everything from hearing aids to wine.  In the past week, approximately 20 well-known companies have changed their relationship  with the N.R.A.

Automobile rental companies such as Enterprise, National, Alamo, Hertz and Avis are no longer giving a discount to N.R.A. members. In the airline industry, Delta and United are no longer offering discounts.

Met Life and Chubb in the insurance field followed suit. Hotel chains like Best Western and Wyndham  have altered their policies. Symantic  Corporation which makes the Norton Anti-Virus softwear  likewise.

The N.R.A. has responded as expected. They called these corporate moves “a shameful display or political and civic cowardice.”

But what may turn out to be the most effective pressure came from Walmart,  the world’s largest seller of firearms. Dick’s will stop selling assault weapons, will raise the minimum age to twenty-one,  and will not sell high capacity magazines.

It will be fascinating to see whether the N.R.A. succumbs to this economic pressure. The Daily Kos, a liberal website is asking for signatures on a petition asking Apple, Amazon and Google Play to boycott NRAtv which broadcasts “unsupported conspiracies, racist ideologies that harm this nation , endanger citizens and promote violence.”

Looking  back historically, I can think of several examples when putting economic pressure on companies has worked.

When Cesar Chavez was organizing  migratory farm workers,  we were asked to boycott grapes and lettuce. And it worked! In the long struggle for LGBT rights, remarkable progress has been made: gays can now serve in the military, same sex marriages, are legal as is adoption of children by gay couples.

There are mutual funds which invest only in companies that support workplace equality. While there are literally hundreds which fall within this category, American Airlines, Nike and Yahoo are most notable.

On the international stage,  Apartheid was vanquished when colleges and universities practiced “divestiture” that is, refusing to do business with South Africa.

Is it not time to apply sanctions, boycotts and other forms of economic pressure upon those who oppose  sensible gun reform?

When President Trump played host to the Australian Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull,  a week ago, the question arose as to how Australia had solved its gun problem.

This was not a question either Trump or Turnbull wanted to address. It seems that Australia instituted a “buy back” program for semi-automatic guns and there hasn’t been a mass shooting since.

The P.M. then, nimbly, pointed out that we are dealing with two very different populations. Of course, Trump agreed avoiding an embarrassing  moment. While there is some truth to the “two cultures” argument, Trump did not want to get into a debate about sensible gun control.

Earlier in the conference, Trump may have made  two of the most ignorant statements I’ve ever heard. He was pushing hard for arming teachers in every school. He made the distinction between teachers who knew and loved the students and guards who didn’t know them.

Having spent my entire professional life in schools supervising student teachers, I would challenge Trump. His statement that teachers love their students is a partial truth; obviously, some do and some don’t.

His statement that guards don’t love the kids, is, on its face, an oversimplification. Another bogus solution is that teachers should get paid additional sums when schools don’t  even have enough money for classroom staples.

A case can be made that the more weapons available in  the school or at home the more persons will die.

On March 24, 2018, there will be a march on Washington. It will be interesting to hear reactions from teachers and the leaders of teachers’ organizations . Randi Weingartner of the American Federation of Teachers is already on record opposing the idea.

As an aside, we should note that if Marjory Stoneman Douglas were alive today, she would be most proud of the students who attend the high school named after her.

Douglas was an environmentalist, a suffragist and a civil rights advocate.  Her efforts led to preserving one of the world’s great wetlands – the Everglades. She died in 1998 at the age of 108.

There is much to be learned from the Parkland shooting. The voices of the students ring loud and clear; applying economic pressure to the N.R.A. seems like a viable, if yet unproven, strategy; and finally, there is little  indication role that  lawmakers will act with more courage now than they have in the past.

My wish is that the sane gun owners, including  N.R.A. members, will see the light  and do “the right thing.”

Dr. Hal Sobel

Great Neck

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