Lawrence Keane: Ending Banking Discrimination is a Necessary Fight for the Firearm Industry

Bloomberg editors raised a fair point in early March by cautioning that banks should not be brought into culture wars. The editors gnashed their teeth that banks are being pressured by politicians on both sides of the aisle to pick winners and losers in the American economy.

They are right about the need for lending institutions to stay above the fray. They are also wrong to think that anyone dragged banks into the public policy arena. They marched into the fray to the drumbeat of the “woke” band cheering them on.

Ending the blatant discrimination against a Constitutionally-protected industry, such as the firearm industry, is a matter of ensuring that ivory-tower, unaccountable corporate boardroom executives do not dictate which rights Americans choose to exercise. Discrimination against the firearm industry is a conscious decision by these corporate entities to slowly choke off American firearm manufacturing, and with it the Second Amendment.

This is how they plan to exact gun control through corporate fiat. Eliminating the industry that produces firearms for law-abiding Americans means Americans can’t exercise their Second Amendment rights.

Banks Discriminate

Banks, and news editors, must be honest. This is a fight the banks started, and they can choose to end it immediately. They only need to drop business demands for gun control that exceeds federal and state law. It is not for banks to dictate public policy, especially when it comes to Constitutional rights.

Bank of America announced in 2018 that they would no longer conduct business with firearm manufacturers producing Modern Sporting Rifles (MSRs), or AR-15-style rifles, vilifying the most-popular selling rifle in America as “military-style” firearms for civilians. Bank of America’s then-vice chairman Anne Finucane made the announcement on Bloomberg TV. That is something that Bloomberg editors failed to note. They missed it again when their own reporters reported it less than a year ago.

Citigroup, too, enacted discriminatory firearm policies more than a decade ago. The banking giant stepped up their discrimination in 2018, refusing to do business with anyone who did not agree to age-based gun bans that would deny Second Amendment rights to adults under 21, or those who sell standard-capacity magazines. Federal law allows adults at 18 to purchase rifles and shotguns.

Bloomberg news reported on this in 2018. They also reported that Citigroup attested to the Texas Attorney General that they do not hold discriminatory policies against the firearm industry, despite the fact that their discriminatory policies are still posted on their website. Another miss by Bloomberg’s editors.

JPMorgan Chase’s CEO Jamie Dimon testified before Congress that the banking giant does not work with any business manufacturing AR-15-style rifles, maligning them as “military-style weapons for civilian use.” That was enough for Louisiana’s Republican Attorney General Jeff Landry and Republican state Treasurer John Schroeder to bar JPMorgan Chase from competing for state bonds. “I’m not selling our 2nd Amendment rights to corporate America,” said Treasurer Schroder. And Attorney General Landry recently told his fellow Republican attorneys general at their January meeting, “The Second Amendment is not for sale.”

Wells Fargo once stayed out of the “woke” banking cabal. However, just two months after Wells Fargo and other banks got “failing grades” from gun control radicals Guns Down America, CEO Charles Scharf reported the bank’s relationship with the NRA was “declining,” adding the bank would no longer participate in line of credit or mortgage commitments. Wells Fargo has terminated banking relationships with several major firearm manufacturers because they refused the bank’s demand that they stop manufacturing Modern Sporting Rifles.

Bloomberg news reported on the “failing grades” at the time. That, too, was skipped by the editors.

Battling Back

The firearm industry is not fighting alone. Political leaders witnessed corporate banks’ demands. Texas enacted the Firearm Industry Nondiscrimination (FIND) Act, which tells these corporate banks that they cannot profit from Texas tax dollars and use those profits to fund efforts to deny those Texans their Second Amendment rights.

Similar legislation is pending in eight states. It has also been introduced in Congress by Rep. Jack Bergman (R-MI) as H.R. 6970. That is in addition to the Fair Access to Banking Act (S. 563/H.R. 1729), introduced by Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-ND) and Rep. Andy Barr (R-KY) respectively. These bills would ensure that banking and credit decisions are based on objective, individualized credit worthiness and impartial risk-based standards. It would also prevent multinational financial institutions with over $10 billion in assets from accessing taxpayer-subsidized government programs, including access to the Federal Reserve Discount Window Lending Programs, Federal Deposit Insurance Company, and Automated Clearing House Network, if they are at the same time denying banking services to legal businesses under federal law.

None of these bills, nor Texas’s law, tells the banks they must do business with the firearm industry. Corporate banks are free to hold discriminatory policies should they choose. However, the FIND Acts would give states, and the Federal government, the same freedom to choose with whom they conduct business, especially when it means funding banks bent on destroying Second Amendment rights. The Fair Access to Banking Act only tells these corporate banks they cannot access taxpayer-funded insurances while at the same time destroying the taxpayers’ Constitutional rights.

Banks should assess their business decisions based on credit worthiness, not “woke” political agendas. This is not a fight the firearm industry chose, but one thrust upon the industry when banks decided to choose winners and losers based on activist political agendas.

Lawrence G. Keane is the Senior Vice President and General Counsel for NSSF, the firearm industry trade association, and guest columnist for Down Range with AWR Hawkins, a weekly Breitbart newsletter focused on all things Second Amendment.

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