In January, we reported on encouraging news that the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) had taken steps to reassure banks that they are not categorically prohibited nor discouraged from servicing customers in the firearms and ammunition industries. Of course, the very fact that this should be considered newsworthy demonstrates just how bad the politically-motivated abuses of federal banking regulators, including but not limited to FDIC and Department of Justice (DOJ), had become. The supposed "enforcement" program at the center of this scandal, Operation Choke Point (OPC), has been the subject of considerable congressional attention. Recently, bills were introduced that seek to put a definitive end to the administration’s squeeze of what it considers "immoral" businesses operating within the law.
On Thursday, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) introduced the Firearms Manufacturers and Dealers Protection Act of 2015. This bill would completely defund, in perpetuity,“Operation Choke Point or any other program designed to discourage the provision or continuation of credit or the processing of payments by financial institutions for dealers and manufacturers of firearms and ammunition.“ The bill expresses Senator Rubio’s strong conviction that “[w]e must stop this administration’s effort to target private industries and the 2nd Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens.”
Sen. Rubio’s bill followed Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer’s (R-Mo.) re-introduction on February 5 of the Financial Institution Customer Protection Act. This legislation would institute numerous reforms to bring more transparency and accountability to federal oversight of banks, all aimed at preventing the sort of unchecked abuse of discretion at the heart of OPC.
For example, the bill would require regulators that suggest or order a bank to terminate a customer’s account to put the directive in writing, with reference to any specific laws or regulations the enforcement agency believed were being violated. Moreover, no such reason could be based solely on “reputational risk,” the supposed basis for including firearm and ammunition businesses within the scope of OPC’s “high risk” target list. Regulating agencies would also have to submit annual reports to Congress documenting any such requests or orders. Finally, the Act would make important amendments to the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery, and Enforcement Act of 1989, which agencies have cited as authorization for OPC, to clarify the law’s scope so as conclusively to preempt this dubious justification.
On Thursday, Rep. Luetkemeyer published excerpts of a FDIC whistleblower’s letter, which further substantiate the illegitimate ends of OPC. The individual wrote: “I am an employee of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC). I was proud of my job and the FDIC’s mission before Operation Choke Point. During the past two years, however, we have been told to examine banks much more harshly, if they deal with a class of customers prohibited by Choke Point.” Some may have difficulty believing (or accepting) that the corruption inherent in using regulatory authority to attempt to destroy entire lawful industries could exist in the United States government. As unsettling as that idea may be, it cannot be ignored, and Rep. Luetkemeyer has systematically and courageously exposed and opposed it.
The NRA is grateful for the leadership of Sen. Rubio and Rep. Luetkemeyer on this issue, and encourages you to contact your U.S. Senators and Representative to voice support of the legislation to end OPC.