Congressional Republicans decided against a Second Amendment rider to the highly-anticipated Dodd-Frank reform bill signed into law last week — a blow for gun rights groups hoping to strike back against the financial sector over its recent anti-gun activism.
It’s the latest twist in a nearly-four month siege against gun makers and retailers after a teenager killed 17 with a Smith & Wesson M&P15 rifle at a high school in southern Florida on Valentine’s Day. In lieu of congressional action, major banks — including Citi and Bank of America — implemented new rules for clients selling or making guns. Meanwhile, several high-profile retailers, led by Dick’s Sporting Goods, adopted policies restricting firearm sales and destroying existing inventories of modern sporting rifles.
Gun groups balked at the backlash while Republicans on Capitol Hill demanded answers. Senate Banking Committee Chairman Mike Crapo, an Idaho Republican, blasted BoA in a letter submitted to Chief Executive Officer Brian Moynihan last month, accusing the company of “seeking to replace legislators and policymakers.”
“It is deeply concerning to me when large national banks like Bank of America, which receive significant forms of government support and benefits, use their market power to manage social policy by withholding access to credit to customers and companies they disfavor,” Crapo said in the letter dated April 25.
Federal regulators caution against intervening — a sentiment many lawmakers share, despite their concerns over the industry’s actions as of late. The dispute leaves Republicans caught between two major lobbying groups upon which the party depends.
“I’m still thinking through this, because I generally don’t like to tell businesses how to conduct their business,” said Sen. Pat Toomey, a Pennsylvania Republican, during an interview with the New York Times last week. “But it is certainly problematic if it were to be the case that the major banks that provide the infrastructure for so much of our financial services decided that they were going to practically shut down a perfectly legal industry.”
Gun Owners of America saw an opportunity to thwart the banking industry’s efforts through the recently-enacted Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief and Consumer Protection Act, S. 2155. The proposal exempts banks from some the regulatory burdens of the 2009 Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.
In a letter dated May 2, John Velleco, GOA’s director of government operations, urged lawmakers to include language in the bill saying “no financial institution regulated under the provisions of this Act may discriminate against any person or entity based on the lawful exercise of Second Amendment rights.”
“Businesses, generally, have a right to do business with whoever they want,” he said. “But, as we said, these banks, in particular, have been allowed to conduct business as quasi-monopolies by federal regulation, and are guaranteed from failure by funds provided by the American taxpayer.”
Lawmakers didn’t include the rider, however, and without federal regulators on board, it’s not clear how — or if — Republicans can do much about the backlash. The National Shooting Sports Foundation told the New York Times last week it will continue lobbying for an intervention, echoing concerns of banks overstepping their bounds.
“We are very concerned that banks enter into this hotly contested political issue,” said Lawrence Keane, NSSF’s senior counsel. “These are matters for the policy arena. Banks shouldn’t be interjecting themselves into this issue.”