The gun control push might be taking a hit in 2020, with unprecedented growth in sales and gun ownership nation-wide, but that doesn’t mean its backers are giving up any time soon. Right now one way gun control advocates are ramping up is in banking.
While some financial institutions are taking anti-gun business stances on their own, state and local legislators are crafting new policies in order to make it hard for any banks to work with gun buyers and sellers.
“Financial activism by banks is by far one of the largest emerging threats against Second Amendment rights,” Philip Watson, founder of Washington Public Relations and a Second Amendment advocate, told Fox News. “The federal government allows the financial industry to receive vast amounts of federal funds; however, those exact same funds free up their balance sheets enough to discriminate and play politics.”
California, Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, and Virginia are all hotspots where legislators and regulators are looking to use political force to leverage their anti-gun agendas onto banks, gun owners and gun manufacturers.
California Assemblywoman Sydney Kamlager-Down, D-L.A., introduced a bill last year, ACR-115, that “would urge all banks to discuss their lending practices with their shareholders and to adopt lending practices that mirror the people of California’s values of protecting citizens before profit.” The bill is currently waiting for senate approval.
The state Treasurer Shawn Wooden of Connecticut announced his plans to reallocate $30 million in public pension funds away from gun manufacturing investments and block any future investments in the firearms industry. The plan also includes provisions for incentivizing investing with companies that hold anti-gun policies.
A Virginia legislator introduced an even more troubling set of laws with the Gun Violence Prevention Through Financial Intelligence Act of 2019. This bill requires banks and credit card companies to report financial transactions involving gun sales to the state and federal agencies in order to track “suspicious activity” without establishing what that activity is.
Other transaction services including Apple Pay, Square and PayPal have long-standing restrictions on money transfers for gun sales.
“PayPal canceled my business and personal accounts because of a velcro patch that we were selling through our web store,” said the Silah Report’s founder Miles Vining. “It was in the shape of a firearm called the AKS74U or affectionately known as the ‘Krinkov’ in Central Asia and the United States.”
“It’s a constant struggle when it comes to conducting anything that is legitimate and small arms-related in the current political climate,” added Vining.
But not every financial institution is on board with the idea of turning away gun business. Both Mastercard and Visa remain willing to work with gun owners and the gun industry.
“We are guided by the federal laws in a country, and our job is to create and to facilitate fair and secure commerce,” said Visa Chairman and CEO Alfred Kelly to CNBC.
“The reality is that it’s very hard for us to do it,” said Kelly. “If we start to get in the mode of being legislators it’s a very slippery slope. We shouldn’t be determining what’s right or wrong in terms of people’s purchases.”
Kelly added that he believes that these decisions lie in the hands of policymakers, and that “it’s time to start looking at mental health, the size of these magazines, the type of weapons. They’ve got to do something.”
One thing is clear, that if these anti-gun leaders can’t get at guns directly, they’ll still go after them in any other way they can.