Change is Finally Happening

As many of you know, February 14, 2018, was a sad day in our nation’s history; yet another school shooting occurred in Parkland, Florida at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. But what’s different this time? These kids are fighting back. They’re making sure they have a voice, and that it’s heard. Major corporations are listening to them too and making drastic changes into their policies. Gun company stock prices are feeling repercussions and Mutual Fund companies are changing their policies towards gun company stocks as well.

After doing some research, I discovered that major companies are beginning to change their policies about purchasing guns. Companies like Walmart and Dick’s Sporting Goods have changed the age for gun purchases and types of guns they are selling. Both companies announced on February 28, 2018, that they “would not sell any gun to anyone under 21 years of age and would no longer sell items resembling assault-style rifles, including toys and air guns.” (NY Times) The changes were implemented immediately throughout the United States. As Ed Stack (the CEO of Dick’s Sporting Goods) said, “As we looked at what happened down in Parkland, we were so disturbed and saddened by what happened. We felt we really needed to do something” (Huffington Post). Other major companies are standing up like Dick’s Sporting goods and changing their purchasing age for rifles and terminating assault-type rifles.

The most impact I feel that has occurred is for the airline and car companies. An example, Delta Airlines, have “decided to cease a program that provided discounts to those who are members of the National Rifle Association (NRA)” (Wings) As for Delta, this might cause some problems financially. Based in Georgia, where it was planned to give the airline company a tax break, $38 million tax break to be precise. This would have helped them greatly with paying for the jet fuel taxes. But the Georgia Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle didn’t want Delta to take part in these tax breaks. In the Georgia, the House of Reps and Senate both voted against giving a tax break to Delta. With this outcome, the airline company has made sure to inform the nation that they aren’t planning to reverse their position anytime soon, and that “they [might] stop providing discounts to any group that takes a political divisive position.” (Wings) Delta Airlines isn’t the only company that is halting their offer of discount programs to members of the NRA. Enterprise, Alamo, National, Hertz, Avis, and Budget rental companies, and United Airlines as well are all halting discounts for NRA members.

Since the election of President Trump in 2016, gun companies had been struggling ever since. Typically, gun sales spike when Democrats are in power, as gun owners’ fears of gun-control measures rise. With Trump in power, sales have fallen. Statistically, stock prices for gun manufacturers also rise after mass shootings, possibly because the debate over gun control heats up and rekindles fears from gun owners. For example, stock prices for American Outdoor Brands spiked in the week following the Pulse Club shooting in 2016 that killed 49 people, and again after the Las Vegas shooting in October shooting that killed 58 people. Reaction to the Parkland shooting seems different. Renewed calls for gun control haven’t had the effect of boosting gun stock prices.

Investment firms are re-examining their portfolios, dropping gun stocks, and asking weapons manufacturers what they are doing to make sure their products don’t end up in a mass shooting” (Vox). BlackRock, a well known finance and investment company has made some drastic changes since the Parkland Shooting. The company has begun to talk with firearm manufacturers and sellers who obtain stocks and funds in Blackrock. They want to take action and initiate change, “We believe that this event requires response and action from a wide range of entities across both the public and private sectors,” said the company. Blackrock is well known as the “third-largest holder of gun and gun-related stocks.” Blackrock is targeting the companies, asking them series of questions to see what kind of actions they would take by asking the following: “What is your strategy and process for managing the reputational, financial and litigation risk associated with manufacturing civilian firearms?” and “How do you assess the financial, reputational and litigation risk of the various aspects of your product lines and how each of those products is distributed?” They are taking time to go through an extensive vetting process “looking to understand whether the company has the appropriate policies and controls in place and is sufficiently managing the risks associated with these issues.” One of the big areas of interest for Blackrock is to inspect whether these gun manufacturers are keeping a close eye on their products and that they’re taking time to conduct safety-related research. Although they are going through this intense vetting, their gun stocks haven’t declined. In a statement by the company, they say that they’re “exploring ideas for new funds, including index-based portfolios that exclude just firearms manufacturers and retailers.” They realize that this might be a long-term process but they want to take action now, because it’s a topic of great urgency until things have changed. They are not saying whether they are are supporting the NRA or not, but it seems to be that they are working hard to figure out ways to keep their funds on a positive trend, and also demonstrate that they are not for gun violence and that they want changes to be made.

Why are companies responding so effectively to the Parkland shooting? What has changed? Why this shooting? Many student survivors are not allowing themselves to be silence. They are confronting state politicians and even the President of the United States demanding for strict gun laws. The students are extremely active, especially on social media, which is really making a difference. Movements like #NeverAgain are gaining the country’s attention like never before. Gun control activists are beginning to put “pressure on Inc and other online streaming platforms to drop the online video channel NRATV, featuring gun-friendly programming produced by the NRA” (Reuters). Countless hashtags such as #StopNRAmazon, #DumpNRATV, #BoycottNRA have trended on Twitter not only by the students but by other adult activists, showing their obvious anger toward the NRA, “Ironic how the @NRA likes to point a finger at what kids watch on TV … while they spew vile rhetoric on NRAtv, streamed on @Amazon and aimed solely at boosting gun sales” (Reuters) wrote Randi Mayem Singer, a screenwriter, pointing a finger at Amazon.  Amazon is under a lot of pressure by the nation to stop streaming NRA affiliated TV shows and to stop supporting the NRA like other major companies have. Let’s hope that more companies follow in the footsteps of those that have already made changes in response to this tragic shooting. These companies know that these young people are the next generation of customers and they are acknowledging the emotional tsunami advocating for stricter gun laws. This change is good. Change needed to happen, and it finally has.