EXCLUSIVE: FedEx’s secret deal with the NRA and the gun industry

While publicly trying to distance itself from the NRA, FedEx has made a secret agreement with the association and other major players in the firearms industry.

CREDIT: Drew Angerer/Getty Images
CREDIT: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

More than two dozen companies have cut ties with the National Rifle Association (NRA) in recent days, having come under scrutiny for doing business with the gun lobby following the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, which left 17 people dead earlier this month.

But FedEx has refused to cut ties with the association, and a confidential company document obtained by ThinkProgress detailing the courier service’s relationship with the firearms industry may explain why.

The courier service has publicly tried to distance itself from the NRA, saying in a statement Monday that, despite providing a discount to the NRA’s business alliance, it disagrees with a number of the NRA’s policy positions.

“FedEx has never provided any donation or sponsorship to the NRA which is one of hundreds of alliance and association participants that serve more than one million customers,” the statement said.

In an expanded statement posted Tuesday, FedEx even attempted to link the NRA to its rival UPS, noting that the gun group used UPS for shipping merchandise from its online store.

But FedEx’s decision to stand by the NRA probably has less to do with shipping NRA polo shirts than a much more profitable business: shipping guns.

In a stark contrast with FedEx’s recent attempts to distance itself from the gun lobby, the internal company document obtained by ThinkProgress outlines in great detail precisely how FedEx has secretly agreed to bend its own rules on gun shipments for powerful forces in the gun industry, including all major gun manufacturers and the NRA itself.

The document, labeled “Confidential information. Internal use only,” was provided to ThinkProgress by a FedEx employee, who asked to remain anonymous due to concern that disclosing the document would cause the source to be terminated.

The United States Postal Service (USPS) won’t mail handguns except under certain rare circumstances, mostly for relic collection and museum purposes, meaning almost all handgun shipments need to go through either the United Parcel Service (UPS) or FedEx.

UPS requires all handguns be shipped overnight, according to its website.

FedEx’s public policy, like UPS’s, is that “[f]irearms must be shipped via FedEx Priority Overnight service,” according to the company’s 2018 Service Guide, which also states that FedEx will not transport handguns via FedEx Ground.

But FedEx does not apply its public rules to everyone. According to the document, the company has struck a deal with dozens of major gun manufacturers and dealers in an effort to woo the industry away from competitors with lower cost shipping. The agreement, which has not been previously reported, shows how important the handgun shipment business is to FedEx.

“Some customers have been approved for an exception to ship firearms with a 2-day (AM or PM) service,” the document says. Those customers include 86 firearms manufacturers and dealers, including nearly every major company in the business, like Smith & Wesson, Colt, Glock, SIG Sauer, and the NRA itself.

Internal FedEx Document
Internal FedEx Document

The confidential policy allows these customers to ship guns at a much lower cost and has allowed FedEx to maintain its advantage in shipping guns. According to a source at FedEx, the exceptions to FedEx’s handgun policy started within the last five years in response to increased competition from UPS.

FedEx did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

ThinkProgress obtained the document after FedEx publicly declined to stop giving discounts to NRA members Monday night, saying in a statement that although it disagreed with some of the NRA’s policy stances, it believed that ending the discount program for members would be discriminatory.

“FedEx is a common carrier under Federal law and therefore does not and will not deny service or discriminate against any legal entity regardless of their policy positions or political views,” the statement said. “FedEx has never set or changed rates for any of our millions of customers around the world in response to their politics, beliefs or positions on issues.”

It was after additional customer pressure that FedEx updated its statement Tuesday, attempting to further distance itself from the NRA.

ThinkProgress first reported on a number of companies that do business with the NRA last week, nearly two dozen of which have now cut ties with the association.

On Saturday, Delta and United Airlines cut ties with the NRA, joining First National Bank of Omaha, Enterprise Holdings, security software company Symantec, home security company SimpliSafe, auto insurer MetLifecar rental firms Avis and Budgetmoving companies Allied and North American Van linessoftware company Wild Apricot, and car buying service TrueCar.

The NRA called the decisions to cut ties “a shameful display of political and civic cowardice” in a statement Saturday, and said that it would not scare any of the NRA’s more than five million members in “the greatest nation in the world.”

“Let it be absolutely clear,” the statement said. “The loss of a discount will neither scare nor distract one single NRA member from our mission to stand and defend the individual freedoms that have always made America the greatest nation in the world.”

UPDATE, 12:30 p.m. Wednesday: FedEx responded to ThinkProgress’ request for comment Wednesday, saying in an emailed statement, “FedEx handles all regulated commodities in accordance with the laws and regulations applicable to all common carriers. Any internal list that shows customer names is confidential and not authorized for public disclosure because FedEx protects the privacy rights of our customers.”