Second Amendment groups, including the National Rifle Association (NRA), Second Amendment Foundation (SAF), National Association for Gun Rights (NAGR), and hundreds of grassroots organizations, have preserved our right to self-defense and the Second Amendment. This has been done by making our voice heard to lawmakers at all levels of government. We have won some battles and lost others, but for the most part, our continuing efforts to keep lawmakers honest (regarding firearms legislation) have been successful. However, we now face a new threat that could easily derail the Second Amendment without a lawmaker filing a single vote.
There are five major banks in the United States – Citigroup, J.P. Morgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Bank of America, and Goldman Sachs. Two of these banks, Citigroup and Bank of America, have already announced policies that they will not do business with any company or business that manufacturers or sells “assault-style” firearms or “high capacity magazines.” Additionally, the banks are setting other arbitrary conditions, such as the businesses must all adopt policies that they will not sell any firearm or ammunition to any person under the age of 21.
So, that is two of five banks, or 40%, but Wells Fargo is also under attack. The American Federation of Teachers (AFT) has called for a meeting with the bank, already leveling an ultimatum that Wells Fargo can only do business with the AFT or the firearms industry, but not both. If Wells Fargo falls, that would leave Chase and Goldman Sachs.
Before we all decry how we are going to simply not do business with any bank that declares an anti-gun policy, answer these questions: “Do you have a local Goldman Sachs ATM near you? How about a branch office?” This could leave us with one real choice, and the anti-gunners with one target, J.P. Morgan Chase.
Do you realize how dangerous this is? Essentially, a handful of CEOs or board members can take a vote, after meetings that were held in secret, with no transparency, no chance for the people to express their opinions, and no votes to de facto strip citizens of their rights under the Constitution. Even if you were the most ardent opponent of the Second Amendment, you should be terrified by this action and the potential future ramifications.
After all, what’s to stop the banks or similar businesses from controlling free speech through the power of its purse? What if the banks decided to run an algorithm that determined your politics and based the outcome determined whether it would give you a home loan (conservative or liberal)?
Off the grid? Who cares? The banks could just as easily say you have not been vocal enough in publicly supporting the opinions, candidates, or issues the bank mandates in order to qualify you for the loan. This is a danger that we cannot simply put our heads under a rock and hope it blows over.
Wells Fargo Gets Ultimatum
The American Federation of Teachers (AFT) President Randi Weingarten is in negotiations to meet with Wells Fargo CEO Tim Sloan. The AFT’s purpose is to deliver an ultimatum regarding the bank’s ongoing financial support for the gun lobby and gun manufacturers. The AFT has publically taken the position that if Sloan continues Wells Fargo’s support of firearms businesses, the AFT will discontinue its popular Wells Fargo mortgage program offered to members.
Last week, the AFT released correspondence between Weingarten and Sloan. The release outlined the union’s concerns about Wells Fargo’s connections with the NRA—and threatened to stop offering Wells Fargo mortgages—if Wells Fargo continues being the NRA banker. The Wells Fargo mortgage program is part of the Union Privilege program and approximately 1,600 AFT members opt for these mortgages annually.
More than 20,000 AFT members currently hold mortgages through the program. If Wells Fargo fails to budge, the AFT will urge other Union Privilege members to follow suit. The AFL-CIO was copied on the correspondence.
AFT President Randi Weingarten said: “The lives of students and educators must be valued more than guns. This is America—Wells Fargo has the right to be the NRA banker, but we have rights too. That’s why if Tim doesn’t ditch his guns business, we’ll ditch Wells Fargo. We are glad Tim wants to meet; but no words will dissuade us from our view that our society must value people over profits. We have a responsibility on behalf of our members and their students who face potential gun violence every day.
“We’re issuing Wells Fargo an ultimatum—they can have a mortgage market that includes America’s teachers, or they can continue to do business with the NRA and gun manufacturers. They can’t do both.”
I wonder how the members of the ATF feel about the move. I mean, did the membership vote for this? How many gun owners are, by the default of their position, members of the union but do not support this ultimatum, which is poorly representing their views based on the beliefs or politics of a few top leaders?
A few weeks ago, Alan Elias, a spokesman for Wells Fargo, said in a statement, “Any solutions on how to address this epidemic will be complicated.
“This is why our company believes the best way to make progress on these issues is through the political and legislative process. We are engaging our customers that legally manufacture firearms and other stakeholders on what we can do together to promote better gun safety for our communities.”
Time will tell if Wells Fargo proves to be an honest broker or falls inline with other banks bent on pushing the ideals of a few leaders upon the masses through its lending power.
Bank of America
During a Bloomberg Television interview on April 12, Anne Finucane, a vice chairman at Bank of America, said, “It’s our intention not to finance these military-style firearms for civilian use.” The firm has had “intense conversations over the last few months” with those kinds of gun manufacturers to tell them B of A won’t finance their operations in the future, she said. Finucane said Bank of America also wouldn’t underwrite securities issued by manufacturers of military-style guns used by civilians. Note: Bank of America helped finance Vista Outdoors and Remington in the past.
In late March 2018, Citigroup set restrictions on the sale of firearms by its business customers, making it the first Wall Street bank to take such an anti-firearm stance. Citigroup’s policy, prohibits the sale of firearms to customers who have not passed a background check or who are younger than 21. It also bars the sale of bump stocks and high-capacity magazines. The policy applies to clients who offer credit cards backed by Citigroup or borrow money, use banking services, or raise capital through the company.
The rules, which Citigroup described as “common-sense measures,” echo similar restrictions enacted by major retailers such as Walmart. These restrictions also represent the boldest such move to interject the financial sector into politics and matters previously, and appropriately) handled through duly appointed and elected officials in the legal system.
According to Citigroup’s Chief Executive Michael L. Corbat, this gun policy has ‘been a while coming.’ Corbat, who claims to be “an avid outdoorsman and responsible gun owner,” stated, “Some will find our policy too strict, while others will find it too lenient.”
“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,” he said. “Banks serve a societal purpose—we believe our investors want us to do this and be responsible corporate citizens.”
Citigroup said it did not have the technology or legal ability to monitor gun purchases at the payment-processing level, but noted ‘the industry was discussing the possibility.’
Smaller Banks and Other Assaults to the Second Amendment
Last month, the First National Bank of Omaha, which said it would not renew a contract with the National Rifle Association to issue an N.R.A.-branded Visa card, led a quick succession of companies to cut ties with the trade group.
Diane Zappas, a spokeswoman for PNC Financial Services Group, said that the company, which is “continuing to consider these issues,” had discouraged new loans to gun manufacturers since 2013 and had “very limited exposure” to manufacturers of AR-15-style rifles.
The rights and freedoms of gun owners are certainly under attack from a new front. What the anti-gunners could not do through the legal system, they are attempting to do through the financial sector. While businesses do have a right to choose with whom they do business, these are the same banks that taxpayer money has been used to bail out of the financial crisis in recent years; the same institutions that get government loans funded with taxpayer dollars.
Remember “Too big to fail?” (The “too big to fail” theory asserts that certain corporations, particularly financial institutions, are so large and so interconnected that their failure would be disastrous to the greater economic system, and that they therefore must be supported by government when they face potential failure.) So, our tax dollars went to saving the financial institutions, but these same financial institutions are somehow allowed to dictate what classifications of product a company can manufacture or offer for sale, who they can sell it to, mandate the age of a borrower’s customer to purchase products—above and beyond the what the law ascribes, and more… all without the oversight of the government, courts, or public, while claiming they are somehow occupying the “moral high ground.”
How do we fight this threat to our Constitutional Rights? Share your answers in the comment section.
Sign up for K-Var’s weekly newsletter and discounts here.