There’s something Orwellian about unaccountable corporate executives parsing over every purchase you make. It sounds “1984-ish,” but for the firearms industry, it’s a 2019 reality.
Some big banks are imposing their executives’ political views on companies by refusing to do business based solely on personal opinions of the lawful products these companies sell. This means that should a product fall out of political favor with elites in corporate high rises, it’s going to be hard for those products to find their way to a shelf or a display case. This is reality for the firearms industry, including manufacturers, distributors, importers and retailers.
These senators are speaking out for responsible gun owners, gun manufacturers and firearm retailers threatened by big banks. Those banks are taking up a social activist mantle, mandating that the firearms industry follow baseless rules – even after those rules have been rejected in the legitimate policy process.
It’s not new. During the Obama administration, an initiative known as Operation Choke Point (OCP) was initiated wherein federal banking regulators leveraged a “reputational risk” criteria to pressure banks to cut ties with lawful businesses including the firearms industry. The administration’s problem was they didn’t like guns.
Thankfully, Reps. Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-Mo.) and Sean Duffy (R-Wis.), along with Senate Banking Committee Chairman Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) ended this initiative. Now, big banks are positioning themselves as public policy arbiters, forcing discriminatory policies pertaining to firearms.
Citigroup announced in March of 2018 that it would refuse financing to gun sellers that offer standard capacity magazines, which are legal under federal law, and institute age-based gun bans for 18-20 year-old adults. Last April, Bank of America stopped lending money to manufacturers of modern sporting rifles like the AR-15, a commonly-owned semiautomatic rifle lawfully used by over 16 million Americans.
These decisions have no basis in policy effectiveness. Congress allowed the Assault Weapons Ban of 1994 to expire after a decade when it proved useless in preventing the criminal misuse of firearms. These banking executives’ pronouncements are political fashion statements by companies more interested in virtue-signaling than fulfilling their responsibilities as federally-chartered financial institutions.
These extrajudicial sanctions are intended to deny companies and citizens their respective right to produce and/or purchase a constitutionally-protected product. Cramer explained in his Freedom Financing Act announcement that a few too-large-to-fail banks controlling most of the financial sector could make legal commerce illegal by refusing to finance certain industries, adding, “big banks should not be the arbiters of constitutionality.”
These are the same banks which accepted multi-billion-dollar taxpayer-funded bailouts. Now, they want to dictate public policy. Today, it might be guns. Next, it could be SUVs, or red meat, or the cause du jour.
The Freedom Financing Act, which has also garnered vocal support from Crapo, would prevent “boardroom bureaucrats” from dictating national policy. In fact, Crapo recently sent letters warning Citigroup, Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase executives that their continued discriminatory practices aren’t unnoticed.
Some in Congress are comfortable outsourcing responsibility to corporate financial institutions. During a recent House Financial Services Committee hearing, Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) threatened Wells Fargo Bank CEO Timothy Sloan with punitive actions if he didn’t “voluntarily” adopt gun control financing policies similar to those of Citibank and Bank of America.
Sloan stood his ground, explaining they “ensure all customers who we bank follow the laws and regulations that are in place.” However, some boardroom bureaucrats are caving to the whims of social justice warriors and usurping the role of democratically-elected policy makers. The Freedom Financing Act will prohibit bank access to bailed-out taxpayer-funded insurances if they discriminate against law-abiding firearms businesses.
Larry Keane is Senior Vice President and General Counsel for the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF).