By: Robert Davis
Amazon. Bank of America. City Group. Dick’s Sporting Goods. Levi-Strauss. Wal-Mart.
The list of corporations leading the way in restricting the sale of guns and ammo is long and getting longer. But what influence do these companies really have on gun control as a whole?
David French, writing recently in National Review, posits corporate gun control poses a greater threat to individual gun rights than government-sponsored legislation ever could.
Another threat looms, one that can stretch across the entire American landscape, is immune to the filibuster, and is largely sheltered from judicial review. It’s a threat that can choke off financing for the gun industry, stifle speech about guns, and lock the gun-rights community into offline (and small online) ghettos that restrict their ability to communicate.
So, what’s happening? Titans of American banking and communication are taking steps to restrict the use of their funds or platforms by gun makers, gun-rights advocates, and others. The threat is just now emerging, but it may be as great a danger to gun rights as it is to the culture of free speech in this nation, and indeed the two are linked.
The shield French alludes to has led financial institutions such as Citigroup into a situation in which they receive taxpayer-funded subsidies and promote policies that curtail taxpayers’ Second Amendment rights.
‘Pressured by Media Campaigns’
A progressive media campaign has led to a Domino effect, says Michael Hammond, legislative director for Gun Owners of America. Once Dick’s Sporting Goods decided to stop selling “assault-style” weapons in late February, numerous companies followed suit:
• YouTube curtailed content intending to sell firearms or provide instructions on firearm manufacturing.
• Citi Bank placed restrictions on firearm sales by its customers in March, including raising the minimum age of purchase to 21. The financier’s CEO told The New York Times the policy has “been a while coming.”
• Bank of America said in April it would stop financing manufacturers that make military-inspired firearms for civilians, such as AR-15s.
• Facebook and Amazon Web Services restricted user access to codeisfreespeech.com, where users could access blueprints for making guns with a 3D printer.
• Reddit updated its policies to forbid “[soliciting] or [facilitating]” transactions involving firearms, including “gun sales, drug sales, prostitution, stolen goods, personal information, and counterfeit official documents.”
Retailers certainly have the right to decide which customers they sell to. But there are laws prohibiting discrimination against customers on the basis of race, gender, or sexual orientation. States like Oregon also add age to that list.
“I think it’s bad policy for a corporation being pressured by media campaigns to deprive constitutional rights from someone who can serve our country,” Hammond said of several companies’ decisions not to sell to people under the age of 21.
“That’s their corporate decision that they want to lose those sales and customers,” Dave Workman, editor for The Gun Mag, told Gunpowder Magazine. “They should know that those consumers are going to find somewhere else to shop.”
Reuters reported shares in Dick’s Sporting Goods have lost 10 percent of value since the company decided to stop selling assault weapons.
“Gun owners ought to be treated like any other customer. That’s it. Period. They should expect to be treated no differently from someone who doesn’t own a gun,” Workman said.
What about the Taxpayer Bailouts?
The issue of corporate gun control is much larger than retailers simply pulling products from their shelves. Many financial institutions were bailed out by taxpayers following the 2007 recession.
Citi Bank received more than $100 billion in taxpayer-funded subsidies, while Bank of America received $20 billion in cash and a $100 billion guarantee on potential losses from their deteriorating balance sheet.
Now both banks are regulating their financial relationships with gun manufacturers and retailers in ways to reduce their total output and sales.
“I would ask of financial institutions that our taxpayers are funding, ‘What right do you have to set public policy?’” Hammond said.
“Any financial institution that is subsidized by taxpayers must maintain, in perspective, that some of the taxpayers are gun owners and are being discriminated against because of their policies,” Workman said.
The Obama administration added fuel to this fire by listing gun manufacturers next to drug dealers, payday lenders, and criminal cabals under Operation Choke Point in 2013. This policy de-incentivized financial institutions from lending to gun manufacturers in an attempt to hinder Americans’ Second Amendment rights.
Even though the Trump administration has since ended Operation Choke Point, it seems the damage has already been done.
Robert Davis is a general assignment reporter for Gunpowder Magazine. You can contact him with questions or comments at [email protected].