Georgia lawmakers punish Delta Airlines over NRA | News | DW | 02.03.2018
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Georgia lawmakers punish Delta Airlines over NRA

Delta has joined dozens of US businesses in distancing from the NRA by no longer offering discounts to its members. Georgia Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle threatened to "kill legislation" that would benefit the airline.

Republican Governor Nathan Deal addresses the jet fuel tax in a press conference, on February 28, 2018 (picture-alliance/AP Photo/Atlanta Journal-Constitution/B. Andres)

Georgia Republican Governor Nathan Deal addresses the jet fuel tax in a press conference, on February 28, 2018

The legislature of the US state of Georgia voted on Thursday to pass a sweeping tax bill scrapping a jet-fuel tax break that directly benefited Delta Airlines in a retaliatory move over the company's policy regarding the National Rifle Association (NRA).

The Republican-controlled legislature's move would be the first major penalty imposed by pro-gun politicians on one of the corporations that have distanced themselves from the NRA, the country's most influential  gun lobbyist group, after a high school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that left 17 students and teachers dead.

In the wake of the massacre, more than a dozen US businesses, including Metlife Insurance, car rental companies Hertz, Avis and Enterprise, hotel companies Best Western and Wyndham, and United Airlines have ended NRA partnerships.

Read more: Walmart raises minimum age for buying guns to 21

Delta Airlines announced on February 25 that it would no longer offer discounted fares to NRA members traveling to attend their annual meetings and asked the gun rights group to remove any references to the company on its website.

Delta currently has its base in Atlanta and is one of Georgia's biggest employers. The airline was hoping to secure the tax break on jet fuel, which would have saved the company at least $38 million (€31 million) a year.

Despite criticizing the confrontation with Delta as an "unbecoming squabble," Georgia Republican Gov. Nathan Deal said he would still sign the broader tax bill.

Gun owners 'discriminated against'

The conflict with Delta began when Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle threatened Delta on February 26, saying he would oppose any legislation that benefited the airline unless it reinstated its NRA benefits program.

In a previous statement denouncing corporations that chose to end their partnerships with the NRA, Cagle said that in his view "discriminating against law-abiding gun owners will not solve the problem." The lieutenant governor said he had been endorsed by the NRA and had achieved an A+ rating – the highest level that the organization bestows upon lawmakers for supporting pro-gun policies.

Delta had explained its decision to end the NRA-related discounts to reflect the company's "neutral status" in the national debate over gun control, but said that it still supported Americans' constitutional right to bear arms.

Read more: Opinion: US students loudly protest gun laws

Other states woo Delta

As a result of the spat between Georgia and Delta, governors from the states of Connecticut, New York and Virginia have publicly offered their states as possible new homes for the airline.

"Hey @delta - Virginia is for lovers and airline hubs. You're welcome here anytime," tweeted Democratic Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam.

Connecticut Democratic Governor Dannel P. Malloy sent Delta CEO Ed Bastian a letter on Wednesday, praising him for his "courage standing up to" the NRA and urging him to consider his state as the new location for the airline's headquarters.

Read more: After Florida school shooting, thousands demand change at anti-gun rally

It was unclear if Delta would seriously consider any of the pitches, but Governor Nathan Deal dismissed the idea that that the company would contemplate leaving Georgia.

"I think Delta knows better than that," he said.

Read more: Guns and Wall Street — a match made in heaven?

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