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Tina Casey headshot

Group Calls Out FedEx on NRA Discount in Florida

By Tina Casey

FedEx gets high marks for its environmental sustainability initiatives. But its relationship with the National Rifle Association is sparking controversy in Florida, where FedEx offers a variety of discounts to NRA members. In that state, homicides have recently spiked despite -- or because of -- the 2005 "stand your ground" self defense law, which was strongly supported by the NRA.

This is not the first time the gun reform movement has tried to put FedEx on the spot over its shipping discounts for NRA members, but so far the effort has not gained much traction. For example, a Change.org petition died on the vine about four years ago after failing to attract more than a few hundred signers.

This time around, though, things could be different.

Groups unite against FedEx and the NRA

Part of the difference this time could be the combined pressure of local legislators and an alliance between advocates for LGBTQ rights and gun reform.

They have rallied around the issue of steep discounts that FedEx provides to NRA members, as part of the NRA Business Alliance.

On Dec. 19, Bloomberg reported that the organization Guns Down is spearheading the renewed protests along with other organizations. The effort includes an online campaign as well as in-person protests in Colorado, Georgia, and Tennessee -- and in Florida on Dec. 21.

Other participating organizations are Color of Change, Newton Action Alliance and Pride Fund to End Gun Violence, Bloomberg reported.

The Florida protest

The FedEx/NRA protests apparently took place as planned, but it appears that only the Florida action gained much traction in the media.

That could be partly due to the choice of Orlando as a location, the scene of last summer's mass shooting at the Pulse gay nightclub in which 49 people were killed.

The support of state Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith also may have tipped the scales for media attention in Florida. Few Florida lawmakers are willing to take on gun reform, but Smith won his seat in November with a platform that included a strong position on "common-sense gun safety measures."

As reported by the Orlando Weekly, Smith had some strong words to say about FedEx and the NRA regarding last week's protest:

"Newly elected state Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, D-Orlando, says it's time to 'starve the beast' and called for a boycott of 'corporate enablers' like FedEx who offer incentives that help the NRA recruit members and hire lobbyists," wrote the Weekly's Monivette Cordeiro.

"'After Pulse, after everything that happened, I can't believe the NRA would advocate we bring even more guns into the equation as a solution to gun violence,' he says. 'I think that's insane.'"

Murder rate spikes in Florida

The Orlando Weekly and Orlando Sentinel seem to be the only major media that covered the Florida protest, but FedEx might still be on the hook for more unwanted attention in the coming year.

That's because the murder rate in Florida has begun to draw national attention. The state's homicide problem sticks out in the context of a significant long-term decline in the average murder rate among other states.

Last summer, the Associated Press reported that Florida's 2015 crime statistics revealed a sharp year-to-year increase in murders and other crimes of violence, partly fueled by an increase in gun-related murders:

"There were 1,040 murders in Florida last year, up from 984 the year before. That includes 767 murders involving guns, an increase of 11.2 percent. That's the most murders in Florida since 2008, when FDLE reported 1,168," the AP reported via the Sentinel last year.

"There were also 7,537 reported rapes in Florida, an increase of 6.1 percent over 2014. Aggravated assaults increased by 3.9 percent, from 58,271 to 60,539, and motor vehicle thefts jumped by 12.4 percent from 36,111 to 40,478."

Florida officials have apparently been trying to paper over the spike by pointing to an overall decline of 1.6 percent in the crime rate. According to the AP, however, that is mostly due to a 10 percent drop in burglaries.

Stand your ground is not working

FedEx's relationship with the NRA could also take a hit as more evidence accumulates about Florida's "stand your ground" self defense law.

The law was promoted as a public safety measure by the NRA and its supporters, but the recent spike in murders calls its efficacy into question.

Researchers are also beginning to track the law's effect over the long term, and the picture is not pretty.

The law took effect in 2005. Florida's monthly murder rate had been trending downward prior to that year, but a new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association has traced the law to a general 24.4 percent increase in the monthly homicide rate after 2005.

The study was published on Nov. 14 under the title, "Evaluating the Impact of Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” Self-defense Law on Homicide and Suicide by Firearm."

The researchers, based at the University of Oxford, found that gun-related homicides showed an even more significant increase, topping out at 31.6 percent.

They concluded that the "removal of restrictions on when and where individuals can use lethal force was associated with a significant increase in homicide and homicide by firearm in Florida."


FedEx and the NRA discount

FedEx targets its NRA discount program as a general perk for new business owners, with this pitch:
"You've always dreamed of owning your own business.

"It might be more challenging than you thought. But you love being in charge and taking responsibility for making your dream a reality. You can't imagine doing anything else that makes you feel as accomplished and proud."

However, when you dig a little deeper, the picture gets murky. The pitch is specifically aimed at participants in the NRA Business Alliance, which bills itself as a way for members to reach "nearly four million NRA members."

Florida has by far the most participating businesses, at 377. The next-closest state is Texas, with significantly fewer participants (263)  but a much larger population. The population of Texas was projected at almost 27 million for 2014, and Florida was projected at less than 20 million.

California comes in third with 254 participants and an even larger projected population of almost 39 million.

So, what's going on in Florida? A quick skim of the list of NRA Business Alliance participants in Florida reveals why FedEx -- or any other shipping company -- would be interested in courting that market. The membership is heavy with retail establishments -- namely,  firearms dealers and pawn shops -- as well as security firms and training facilities.

FedEx and sustainability

FedEx has been diligent about carving out a name for itself in the sustainability field, and that effort could be undercut by the NRA relationship.

The company has set some ambitious goals for reducing its carbon footprint and conserving resources, and it already has a good track record.

One standout example is a striking green roof at its sorting center located at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago.

FedEx is also an early adopter of electric vehicles, and it helped to launch the trend of installing on site renewable energy at sports stadium.

But if the Guns Down campaign gains momentum, FedEx could take a hit, green branding or not.

Photo (cropped): by Daniel Oines via flickr.com, creative commons license.



Tina Casey headshot

Tina writes frequently for TriplePundit and other websites, with a focus on military, government and corporate sustainability, clean tech research and emerging energy technologies. She is a former Deputy Director of Public Affairs of the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, and author of books and articles on recycling and other conservation themes.

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