The marginalization of American gun owners is in full swing. Since the Parkland attack, YouTube, Wal-Mart, and Dick’s Sporting Goods have all announced do-gooder policies designed to discriminate against groups of gun owners and categories of legal firearms. Hertz, among others, have parted ways with the National Rifle Association, and even pro-gun Florida has instituted what may be an unconstitutional age restriction on gun purchases.
Gun owners have alternative options for grocery shopping and online video streaming, but Citigroup’s recent decision to prohibit certain types of firearm sales could pose the biggest risk to the gun industry.
“Citi’s decision has the potential to serve as a template for others in the finance industry,” according to Andrew Sorokin at the New York Times.
Citi announced last week its plans to “restrict” gun sales by business partners. It will no longer do business with companies that sell bump-fire stocks and “high capacity” magazines. It will also require its clients to perform background checks on all gun purchases (which is already required by law, but whatever) and prohibit the sale of firearms to anyone under the age of 21.
“We don’t pretend that these answers are perfect, but as we looked at the things we thought we could influence, we felt that, working with our clients, we could make a difference,” Citigroup’s chief executive Michael L. Corbat told the New York Times. “Banks serve a societal purpose — we believe our investors want us to do this and be responsible corporate citizens.”
Here’s where it gets scary. According to Sorokin, virtually all the major banks have created “formal or informal working groups” to consider the issue, as have the big credit card companies, including Visa, Mastercard, and American Express.
In other words, if local gun shops don’t fall in line, they may not have access to the financial services they need to keep their businesses afloat.
Citigroup admitted that it did not have the “technology nor the legal ability” to monitor gun purchases at the payment-processing level, but said that the “industry was discussing the possibility.”
Sorokin has a few ideas. In proposals worthy of 1984, he outlines two technologies that would allow Big Brother on Wall Street to monitor and prohibit sales it has unilaterally deemed morally unworthy.
First, Sorokin argues that banks should create sub-categories of purchase codes that allow them to see whenever one of the clients sells a firearm. This solution might “require some enforcement,” as gun sellers will attempt to game the system, but he believes that eventually gun makers will “voluntarily follow the ‘best practices’ route.”
Second, Sorokin proposes a solution to the age-old “gun show loophole.” Because some states don’t require background checks on private gun sales, he argues that services like Venmo and Square should “electronically geo-fence” gun shows. This could require each transaction at that event be limited to users over 21 or require additional information for sales to be processed at that location.
“I’ve shared these ideas with many of the biggest financial institutions, and the feedback, with some exceptions, has been quite positive,” Sorokin claims.
If Citigroup and other banks refuse to do business with the pro-gun community, new financial institutions will be more than happy to fill the gap. It’s still a free market, after all.
But prohibiting gun makers and sellers from using established banks will still serve to expel gun owners from mainstream American culture. Criminalizing guns and gun accessories is only one prong of the anti-gun strategy. Cultural marginalization is perhaps even more important, and the recent corporate attacks are a big part of that move.