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The NRA Boycott Just Got Very, Very Serious

Companies have gone from cutting ties with the NRA to cutting ties with anyone that does business with them. This is getting serious.

The NRA boycott has moved into a new phase that has to be deeply concerning to the NRA and the Republican Party. Instead of companies cutting ties with just the political lobbying group, they're now starting to cut ties with other companies that still work closely with the NRA:

CamelBak water bottles, Bell bicycle helmets, Giro ski goggles — what these products have in common is that they’re owned by Vista Outdoor, which includes gun and ammo makers among its brands as well as a strong National Rifle Association connection.

And that’s part of the reason REI, a nationwide outdoor retailer and consumer co-op, announced Thursday evening that it would, for the time being, no longer be ordering CamelBak, Bell, Giro or any other of the 50 Vista Outdoor brands to sell in its stores.

This is a second order boycott that promises to do far more financial damage to the gun lobbying group than what's come before. Car rental agencies and airlines no longer giving discounts to NRA members doesn't do much to the NRA's bottom line, nor does DICK'S Sporting Goods or Walmart raising the age limit for gun purchases to 21 (that hurts the gun industry but not the NRA directly). Pressuring companies to either stop providing revenue to the NRA or to push back on the NRA's absurd second amendment absolutism is an entirely different story, especially if it starts to work:

REI said in a statement that it was Vista Outdoor’s silence that led it to cease selling Vista’s non-gun products indefinitely.

“REI does not sell guns. We believe that it is the job of companies that manufacture and sell guns and ammunition to work towards common sense solutions that prevent the type of violence that happened in Florida last month,” REI’s statement said. “In the last few days, we’ve seen such action from companies like Dick’s Sporting Goods and Walmart and we applaud their leadership. … This morning we learned that Vista does not plan to make a public statement that outlines a clear plan of action. As a result, we have decided to place a hold on future orders of products that Vista sells through REI while we assess how Vista proceeds.”

Naturally, this will be declared an assault on freedom, God, conservatism, America, and Mom's Apple Pie by the same people that also say companies have the right to dictate women's healthcare. Republicans in Georgia stripped Delta Airlines of a multimillion dollar tax break because it ended its association with the NRA, an abuse of power so obscene, it's the literal definition of fascism. As the boycott spreads, Republicans, still flailing about for a way to make it stop, are going to become increasingly unhinged in both their rhetoric and their actions. That, in turn, will almost certainly fuel the boycott so, good luck with that?

The larger danger (for the gun industry) of the boycott is that it's turning the country against the NRA, the GOP, and their over the top gun culture messaging. By making themselves cartoon villains siding with guns over piles of dead children, the NRA has made fighting against basic gun control mandatory for Republicans and electorally toxic at the same time. Like lead poisoning (if you'll excuse the expression), the toxicity has been building for years and is now reaching a tipping point where being an NRA approved politician is going to cost a lot of Republicans their seats in coming elections. That, in turn, will lead to far more gun control laws than the industry can afford.

It's possible that if the gun industry starts to perceive that the NRA is a liability, they'll stop lavishly funding it and it will either fold or purge its radical elements. The point of a lobbying group is to further an industry's agenda and The NRA is on the brink of catastrophically undoing all of its own success because of its extremism. Sooner or later the gun industry will stop pouring money into an organization that's making people hate their product and try a new PR tactic. Maybe responsible gun ownership? It's worked before.

In the meantime, the pressure behind the #NeverAgain campaign continues to grow and the boycott continues to evolve and spread. The NRA's power is predicated on its alleged ability to elect or defeat any politician it wants. If gun control is a significant part of the conversation in November and pro-NRA Republicans are wiped out, that illusion will be forever shattered. After that, opposing gun regulations will be suicidal and sending "thoughts and prayers" instead of action will be finally considered the insult it's always been.