Gun-control activists are demanding that Amazon.com Inc. Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos do something he has carefully avoided: pick a side in a hot-button political debate.
The online retailer, along with Apple Inc., Roku Inc. and other video streaming services, is facing pressure from customers protesting any corporate relationship with the National Rifle Association in the aftermath of a Florida school shooting that killed 17 people. Even though it doesn’t sell guns or ammunition, Amazon is taking much of the heat. Angry consumers started using the hashtag #StopNRAmazon on Twitter, which surfaced last week with customers threatening to cancel their $99-a-year Prime subscriptions.
At issue is NRA TV, a free online channel focused on pro-gun content, which many technology companies offer through their streaming services and devices alongside more popular options such as Netflix, ESPN and HBO. Recent episodes criticized Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel for what NRA TV said was a failure to act on warning signs about the shooter. In one segment, NRA TV host Grant Stinchfield shouts at the camera: “There was no act of heroism when these deputies were sitting outside taking cover behind a cruiser as kids were getting shot.”
Being dumped from streaming services and devices, which many cord-cutters use to watch programs, might limit the gun lobbying group’s reach and visibility, though NRA TV is also available via the organization’s website.
The protest against Amazon and other tech companies followed moves by airlines, hotels, car-rental firms and other businesses to cut ties with the NRA by ending member discounts, and a bank canceling its NRA-branded credit card. FedEx Corp. said it would continue to honor its discount for the group’s members, even though the company supports gun restrictions. The NRA didn’t respond to a request for comment.
Activists are learning that when their concerns fall on deaf ears with politicians, businesses are more likely to yield to changes in public sentiment, said Ethan Zuckerman, director of the Center for Civic Media at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.