The damaging futility of boycotts
Making a villain of the NRA won’t save any lives
Boycotts are nearly always ugly business. They usually punish the innocent, rarely slay the guilty and accomplish only cheap publicity for the grandstanding self-righteous. This time the boycotters are taking aim at the National Rifle Association, the designated villain in the St. Valentine’s Day massacre at a Florida high school.
The boycott is led by the Center for American Progress, which stands proudly on the leftmost rampart of the liberal spectrum, and is propelled by Internet bots and trolls of the sort that outraged liberals decried as having stolen the presidency for Donald Trump.
Ironically, some of those bots and trolls — electronically generated messages on social media — are believed to be Russian mischief-makers who want to create as much turmoil as possible in the American grassroots, and to keep it roiled. Faked or not, the faux outrage has bullied more than a dozen companies into severing long-standing business ties to the NRA.
These ties are mostly partnerships that offer commercial discounts to members of the rifle association, including Enterprise, National, Alamo, Avis, Hertz and Budget car rental companies; United Airlines and Delta Air Lines, Wyndham and Best Western hotels; and Allied and North American Van Lines. FedEx, the ubiquitous package and document deliverers worldwide, refused to be bullied and is now the target of a secondary boycott. The pain inflicted by the boycott is felt not by the leaders and policy-makers of the NRA, but by prospective customers who would otherwise buy the goods and services of the boycotters. In the wake of tragedies such as the Florida massacre, there’s always a search for a scapegoat, and the louder the noise generated by the hysterics in the media, the greater the likelihood of lynching the wrong villain.
“The law-abiding members of the NRA had nothing at all to do with the failure of that school’s security preparednes … or the cruel failures of both federal and local law enforcement,” a spokesman for the NRA rightly says. “Despite that, some corporations have decided to punish NRA membership in a shameful display of political and civic cowardice.”
The massacre was a tragedy most of all for the families of the slain, but deference for the pain and suffering of the innocent never gets in the way of those who would exploit the pain for the gain of the exploiters. Rahm Emanuel, the mayor of Chicago, where’s there’s a daily gunfight at the OK corral, famously counseled his fellow liberal Democrats to “never let a serious crisis go to waste. And what I mean by that, it’s an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before.”
More than 160 House Democrats have taken His Honor’s advice, signing on as co-sponsors of a House bill called the Assault Weapons Ban of 2018, the work of Rep. David Cicilline, Rhode Island Democrat. His bill would ban 205 different guns, all listed by name. That’s 48 more than he had when he introduced his legislation for the first time in 2015.
H.R. 5087 would “outlaw the sale, transfer, production, and importation of semi-automatic rifles and pistols that have a magazine, or can accept a magazine that can hold more than 10 bullets, and any ammunition-feeding device that can hold more than 10 bullets.”
The Cicilline bill is grandstanding on a grand scale, because he and his 162 co-sponsors, all Democrats, understand that the legislation will go nowhere, just as it didn’t go anywhere in 2015.
Like all boycotts, the boycott of the National Rifle Association’s members invites the usual unintended consequences of hysteria. Delta Air Lines, which is based in Atlanta, has put $40 million in tax breaks from the state of Georgia in jeopardy. Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, a Republican candidate for governor, vows to prevent a break on a tax on jet fuel “unless [Delta] changes its position and fully reinstates its relationship with [the NRA].”
The boycott of the NRA is a political stunt that will accomplish nothing. The public’s righteous wrath over the deaths at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School should rightly be redirected at the Broward County Sheriff’s Office, and the FBI, which ignored dozens of tips about the sinister behavior of Nikolas Cruz, 19, the confessed shooter. Taking those tips seriously could have saved those 17 lives.
Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana, who was gravely wounded at a sandlot baseball practice by a deranged man with a gun, rightly observed that “the FBI had this kid handed to them on a silver platter, and dropped the ball.” Shall we boycott sandlot baseball?