Georgia lawmakers hit back at Delta Air Lines for cutting ties with NRA
Gun control advocates rally outside the Georgia Capitol on Feb. 21. Benjamin Nadler/AP

Georgia lawmakers on Thursday voted down a proposed tax break for Delta Airlines — the state’s largest private employer — over the Atlanta company’s decision to end its relationship with the National Rifle Association in the wake of February’s deadly school shooting in Parkland, Florida.

“I will kill any tax legislation that benefits Delta unless the company changes its position and fully reinstates its relationship with NRA,” Lieutenant Gov. Casey Cagle, a Republican, tweeted on February 26. “Corporations cannot attack conservatives and expect us not to fight back.”

Delta is one of a number of companies which in recent weeks have ended partnerships with the NRA amid new pressure from gun reform advocates, including students who survived the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that left 17 dead and more than a dozen others wounded.

The Parkland teens have led the charge against the powerful gun lobby and politicians who receive donations from it, including Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who was torched in a CNN town hall with the students and their parents.

But some on the right have pushed back against the students, taking mean-spirited jabs at them online, suggesting they are too young or emotional to know what they’re talking about and accusing them of being tools of “left-wing gun control groups.”

“Do we really think that 17-year-olds on their own are going to plan a nationwide rally?” former Rep. Jack Kingston, now a CNN contributor, said on the network in February, referring to the March for Our Lives demonstration the students will lead March 24.

The Republican-controlled Georgia legislature’s decision to punish Delta constitutes “the most stinging punishment that America’s pro-gun forces have leveled so far” against corporations that have distanced themselves from the NRA, the New York Times reported Thursday.

But the move could also “damage” Georgia’s ability to attract new corporations to the state — and retain those already based there.

“Holding private employers hostage when they voice their corporate values fosters an unsettling, if not unsavory, business climate,” the Savannah Morning News warned in an editorial Wednesday.

Ralph Northam, the Democratic governor of Virginia, has already publicly lobbied Delta to move its headquarters to the state.

“Virginia is for lovers and airline hubs,” Northam tweeted Tuesday. “You’re welcome here any time.”

But in a statement Friday, Delta CEO Ed Bastian indicated the company would stay in Atlanta — but stood by the decision to rescind the group-travel discount it had offered for the NRA’s annual meeting, saying that it was the company’s way of seeking to “remain neutral” and extract itself from the contentious gun debate.

“Our discounted travel benefit for NRA members could be seen as Delta implicitly endorsing the NRA. That is not the case,” Bastian said. “Our objective in removing any implied affiliation with the NRA was to remove Delta from this debate.”