Sun editorial:

If Delta isn’t welcome in Georgia, the airline has attractive options

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John Bazemore / AP

Delta Air Lines world headquarters in Atlanta on Sept. 8, 2004.

Tue, Mar 6, 2018 (2 a.m.)

To any Delta Air Lines executives who may be down in the dumps after the company was punished by the Republican-heavy Georgia Legislature over cutting ties with the National Rifle Association, we offer a message:

Encourage your CEO to come to Las Vegas. And not just to have a good time, but to relocate Delta’s operations here.

With gun-nut Georgia Republicans having denied the airline a tax exemption, it would seem like an excellent time for Delta to make a break with Georgia.

Las Vegas would be a terrific new home. We’re politically moderate and we’re not beholden to the NRA — witness the fact that Clark County voters approved the 2016 ballot measure calling for universal gun background checks.

Granted, our state’s moderate governor is in the last year of his term, and one of his potential replacements is an NRA drone. But with Democratic majorities in both chambers of the Legislature and no reason to believe moderates are in imminent danger in the state, there’s no need to be overly concerned.

Plus, Nevada has never been a state to get too balled up about the political philosophies of its business operators. Whether you fall in the blue or red camp matters less than whether you can make the green, so it’s hard to imagine that business-friendly Nevada would engage in the sort of ridiculousness that Georgia is pulling in relation to Delta.

There, lawmakers not only torpedoed a proposed tax break on jet fuel that Delta had been seeking, but a GOP candidate for governor suggested using the estimated $38 million the state would receive by eliminating the break to pay for a tax-free “holiday” on purchases of guns and ammo.

As if there aren’t enough guns out there. It’s estimated that there are more than 300 million in the U.S.

That being the case, the motives behind this tax holiday would appear to be entirely cynical. One, it’s red meat thrown to NRA conservative voters. Two, it’s a bone tossed to the NRA and gun manufacturers, who need one at the moment due to the so-called Trump slump — a major cool-off in gun sales stemming from Donald Trump’s election. It seems gun buyers aren’t stockpiling weapons as much as they were during the Obama administration, when their paranoia about losing their Second Amendment rights under the Democratic president sent them scurrying to their local gun shops.

If that’s not enough of a discredit to Georgia’s GOP leadership, let’s not forget that all of this is happening because Delta, in reaction to the Parkland, Fla., shooting, had the audacity to stop giving a discount to NRA members to fly them to their national convention. A whole 13 tickets had been sold since the discount began being offered, the airline said.

Delta’s CEO, Ed Bastian, sent a memo to the company’s employees saying Delta wasn’t trying to take sides in the gun debate.

“Our decision was not made for economic gain and our values are not for sale,” Bastian wrote in the memo. “We are in the process of a review to end group discounts for any group of a politically divisive nature.”

Bastian also said Delta wasn’t planning on leaving Atlanta, even as analysts said the legislature’s punishment of the airline could prompt outside companies to decide against moving to the state.

That’s certainly understandable. It would be one thing for Republicans to criticize Delta, or even to individually call for people to fly on other airlines. But attacking it because it chose to distance itself from a lobbying organization? That’s a gross overreach. Imagine how the GOP would react if a Democrat-controlled legislature snatched a tax break away from a company that eliminated a discount for ACLU members or National Public Radio donors.

So while Bastian’s loyalty to Atlanta is admirable, we’ll just float it out there that he’d find open arms in Nevada should he choose to look elsewhere.

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