No easy answer for Delta as it faces political backlash in ending ties with the NRA

Delta Air Lines finds itself in a quandary after opting to sever ties with the National Rifle Association (NRA) in the wake of a tragic school shooting in Parkland, Florida. Now government officials in Delta’s home state of Georgia are threatening to strip the airline of potential tax benefits. However, if Delta bows to the pressure of Georgia Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle, the airline could face global backlash if it abandons its decision to end its relationship with the firearms association.

After 17 students were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in 14-Feb-2018 gun reform proponents galvanised under the #BoycottNRA hashtag, aiming to pressure large corporations to dissolve their relationships with the NRA. Other corporations that ended partnerships with the gun rights group include United, Enterprise, Hertz, Avis and Budget. United and Delta’s rival American Airlines did not have a relationship with the NRA prior to the shooting.

Delta appears to be receiving the highest level of backlash for its decision to end its relationship with the NRA. Mr Cagle tweeted on 26-Feb-2018 “I will kill any tax legislation that benefits @Delta unless the company changes its position and fully reinstates its relationship with @NRA. Corporation cannot attack conservatives and expect us not to fight back.”

According to Fortune, Delta is hoping Georgia lawmakers would restore a sales tax exemption on fuel that ended in 2015. The publication highlighted a tweet by state legislator Rick Jeffares that included a link to end Delta’s USD40 million tax break. That’s the estimated value of the tax break Delta is seeking.

Delta has yet to directly respond to Mr Cagle’s or Mr Jeffares criticism, and has maintained its stance on the gun control debate is neutral.

The situation Delta now finds itself in reflects how the gun debate is creating a strong intersection of business and politics. The global ramifications and potential consumer backlash are much too robust for Delta to re-instate its relationship with the NRA, yet USD40 million in potential tax benefits is no small sum.

There’s no easy answer for Delta, who has unwittingly found itself in a catch-22 in the gun rights debate sweeping across the US. But for now, Georgia’s state legislators that are proponents for gun holder rights show no signs of backing down from their threats to punish Delta for its stance on the issue, however neutral it may be.