There is growing evidence that some of America’s financial elite want to create a world in which America’s public policy decisions emanate from corporate boardrooms in Manhattan rather than from citizens and their elected officials. This was demonstrated in recent weeks when both Citigroup and Bank of America announced changes to their corporate guidelines aimed at preventing law-abiding Americans from exercising their constitutional rights.
According to Citigroup’s new policy, the nation’s fourth largest bank will withhold business from companies that fail to sufficiently curtail the Second Amendment rights of their customers. Specifically, the policy requires “new retail sector clients or partners” to refrain from selling standard-capacity magazines, to prohibit the sale of firearms to law-abiding adults aged 18 to 20 years-old, and to ignore a vital statutory safety valve provision that permits a Federal Firearms Licensee (FFL) to transfer a firearm three days after a background check has been initiated. Citigroup has also stated that it will further scrutinize the firearms manufacturers they do business with.
Bank of America’s policy targets firearms manufacturing. During an April 10 interview with Bloomberg Television, Bank of America Vice Chairman Anne M. Finucane announced that the company no longer intends to lend money to firearms manufacturers that produce certain configurations of commonly-owned semi-automatic firearms. Making clear that Bank of America only opposes civilian access to semi-automatic firearms, Finucane stressed to the anti-gun news outlet that the bank will no longer finance “military-style firearms” for “civilian use.”
In a March 22 blog post announcing Citigroup’s policy change, Citigroup Executive Vice President of Global Public Affairs Ed Skyler lamented that politicians have been too reticent to trample upon the rights of their constituents, and that this respect for the U.S. Constitution prompted Citigroup to act. Before joining Citigroup, Skyler worked for the administration of New York City Mayor and gun control financier Michael Bloomberg.
Skyler also made clear that Citigroup intends to “convene those in the financial services industry and other stakeholders” to push their anti-gun agenda. In a sentence sure to pique the interest of antitrust regulators, Skyler noted that the financial giant “hope[s] to leverage [the] collective action” of financial institutions in order to foist their restrictions on “all who sell firearms.” Using proper gun control advocate vernacular, Skyler referred to Citigroup’s new restrictions as “common-sense.”
In relation to Citigroup’s restriction on standard-capacity magazines and Bank of America’s attack on commonly-owned semi-automatic firearms, both private and publicly funded studies have determined that such measures would be ineffective. Most recently, a report from the Rand Corporation, titled “The Science of Gun Policy,” examined the available research on a host of gun control proposals. Rand found that the evidence of the effects of bans on the sale of commonly-owned semi-automatic firearms and standard-capacity magazines was “inconclusive.” A 2013 Department of Justice National Institute of Justice survey of the available research determined that in order to have any potential impact, a ban on standard capacity magazines would need to be coupled with an “extensive” confiscation effort.
With its age restriction policy, Citigroup may also be encouraging some of its retail business partners to violate state and local discrimination laws. As UCLA Law Professor Eugene Volokh pointed out on his influential blog, the Volokh Conspiracy, Citigroup “must exempt retailers' actions in those no-age-discrimination states.” As Volokh explained “When a law bans some action, it also usually (explicitly or implicitly) bans others from trying to cause that action.”
As an example, Volokh pointed to Michigan’s anti-discrimination statute, writing,
the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act (Mich. Comp. Laws. §§ 37.2301-.2304) bans age discrimination in retail sales, and § 37.2701 likewise provides that no person shall "[a]id, abet, incite, compel, or coerce a person to engage in a violation of this act" or "[w]illfully obstruct or prevent a person from complying with this act" or "interfere with a person in the exercise or enjoyment of ... any right granted or protected by this act." If a credit card company demands that stores illegally discriminate, then it's inciting, compelling, and coercing violations within the meaning of the law, obstructing the stores' complying with the law, and interfering with 18-to-20-year-olds' enjoyment of rights granted by the law.
Citigroup’s other gun control measure requires that retailers “don’t sell firearms to someone who hasn’t passed a background check.” Of course, firearms retailers are already required by federal law to conduct a background check on all prospective purchasers. What Citigroup is attacking here is an important safety-valve that ensures that Americans are not denied their Second Amendment rights as a result of government malice or incompetence.
The National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) is supposed to be instant. However, some checks require further research by a NICS Examiner to resolve. Federal law provides that in these cases a FFL may proceed with a firearms transfer after three business days if “the system has not notified the [FFL] that the receipt of a firearm by [the buyer or transferee] would [violate federal law.]” Even if the firearm is transferred, FBI continues their attempt to resolve the background check for 90 days. If a purchaser is determined to be prohibited after receiving a firearm, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is notified and there is an effort to retrieve the gun.
Significant delays can and do happen through no fault of the prospective purchaser. The FBI has noted that delays can occur due to a purchaser sharing similar personal characteristics (such as age, date of birth, height, or weight) to a prohibited individual, or because government records are incomplete. According to the 2016 NICS Operations Report, 11 percent of NICS background checks were delayed for additional review. Only 1.2 percent of prospective firearms purchasers were then denied.
By forcing the retailers it deals with to ignore the three day safety-valve provision, Citigroup is endorsing an indefinite firearms waiting period and will be complicit in restricting the rights of innocent Americans. An affront to due process, their policy circumvents the government’s burden of conclusively proving that a person has a prohibiting record before the individual is denied their constitutional rights.
Thankfully, some lawmakers have refused to take this attack on Second Amendment rights lying down. On March 29, Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), who sit on the Senate Banking Committee, issued a stern warning to Citigroup CEO Michael L. Corbat. Sen. Kennedy urged Citigroup to refrain from “penalizing Americans who choose to exercise their 2nd Amendment rights,” and instead to focus on the company’s many shortcomings. Sen. Kennedy also reminded Corbat that “The very fact that Citi remains operational is due entirely to the generosity of the American taxpayers.”
According to an article from Politico, Sen. Kennedy has also urged the General Services Administration to cease its relationship with the bank. Moreover, the office of Senate Banking Chairman Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) is reported to have taken a significant interest in Citigroup’s anti-gun policy.
Citigroup, Bank of America, and other major corporations would do well to recognize that the American voter, through their elected representatives, has repeatedly rejected restrictions on their Second Amendment rights. Moreover, in the case of these banks, shareholders should question the wisdom of corporate leadership that would willfully alienate pro-gun voters and lawmakers.