LGBT Groups Protest FedEx Over NRA Discount

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By Jillian Kay Melchior | 10:48 pm, December 20, 2016
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Several LGBT-focused organizations that support gun control will demonstrate outside of FedEx stores Wednesday to protest the discount shipping company offers to members of the National Rifle Association.

A deal worked out with FedEx means NRA’s 5 million members can enjoy discounts up to 26 percent.

“This isn’t like a senior discount,” said Igor Volsky, director of Guns Down, a group pushing to decrease the number of guns in the U.S. “This is a discount that empowers and subsidizes an organization that is actively working to make life more dangerous by gutting background checks and allowing guns in schools.”

A total of 10 organizations will hold protests Wednesday in Denver, Atlanta, Memphis and Orlando. Among them is Color of Change, the organization that spearheaded the largely successful effort to pressure corporations to boycott the Republican National Convention last summer.

A spokeswoman for FedEx said it was company policy not to comment on specific customer agreements. The NRA did not return Heat Street’s request for comment.

The protests are part of a growing but controversial focus among LGBT activists on gun violence.

“I can’t speak for the whole community, but Orlando was hit very hard by the Pulse tragedy, and anything that contributes to more violence like that is problematic, and we want it to stop,” said Nicole Varma, a community organizer affiliated with Guns Down who is organizing the FedEx protest in Orlando. “We don’t want any other community to be affected by gun violence.”

LGBT organizations bring organizing heft to the gun-control effort—and they plan to use it to take on “the robust financial power of the gun lobby,” said Jason Lindsay, Pride Fund’s executive director.

“One way we can do that is by pressuring businesses that help fuel the NRA’s blood money,” Lindsay said. “Companies should stand for their values, and if FedEx supports the lives of our children and the safety of our communities, they shouldn’t help subsidize the NRA killing industry.”

But within the LGBT community, support for gun restrictions is far from unanimous, says Gwendolyn Patton, a spokeswoman for the Pink Pistols. The national organization claims that “armed queers don’t get bashed,” and its local chapters help gay and trans people learn to shoot and get licensed to carry guns.

Patton also cites Orlando—but she sees it as a reason to support responsible gun ownership. Since the massacre at Pulse, she says, interest in the organization spiked. Though Pink Pistols doesn’t track membership, the organization’s Facebook likes surged over 9,000 after the Orlando killings, up from just 1,500 before. And Patton says she’s also seen a surge in people wanting to open local chapters.

“We’ve run into a basic divide here, and I think it’s based on an awful lot of political ideology,” Patton says. “The stereotype of those on the right is that they don’t like gays but they do like guns, and then there’s the opposite stereotype, that if you’re on the left you don’t like guns but you do like gays. That perspective is based on the premise that gay people should give up their right to self defense, give up their right to guns, so they can get their gay rights from the politicians who support gun control. I personally don’t like that. Why do we have to give up some rights?”