Time will tell, of course, but I don’t believe the wave of corporate boycotts will have the slightest negative effect on the NRA. The conservative public is sick to death of progressive corporate activism, and corporate attacks are far more likely to trigger a pro-NRA backlash than to advance gun control. The attacks are seen as just another example of elite progressive culture attempting to accomplish through scorn and stigma what it hasn’t been able to accomplish through debate and persuasion.
That’s not to say, however, that the NRA will definitely win this round of public debate. Far more dangerous to the NRA is its partisan, Trumpist rhetorical turn. I fear that all too many conservatives have taken the wrong lesson from Trump’s victory. He pummeled his opponents, insulting them all the way to the White House. So now there’s an emerging consensus that a take-no-prisoners rhetorical style “works.” Civility, by contrast, is seen as weak.
I’m not so sure. The NRA has thousands of good stories to tell about self-defense and the benefits of an armed, free citizenry — and it does tell those stories — but it can’t let them get overwhelmed in “the media loves mass shootings” rhetoric that’s formed part of its public defense. Inevitable progressive overreach doesn’t relieve us of the obligation to make the best case we can to the persuadable middle. Civility isn’t disarmament. It’s critical to ideological expansion.