Corporate America increasingly avoids gun-industry business


Associated Press

GAINESVILLE, Ga.

With Gary Ramey’s fledgling gun-making business taking off in retail stores, he decided to start offering one of his handguns for sale on his website.

That didn’t sit well with the company he used to process payments, and it informed him it was dropping his account. Another credit-card processing firm told him the same thing: It wouldn’t do business with him.

The reason? His business of making firearms violates their policies.

In the wake of high-profile mass shootings, corporate America has been taking a stand against the firearms industry amid a lack of action by lawmakers on gun control. Payment-processing firms are limiting transactions, Bank of America stopped providing financing to companies that make AR-style guns, and retailers such as Walmart and Dick’s Sporting Goods imposed age restrictions on gun purchases.

The moves are lauded by gun-safety advocates but criticized by the gun industry that views them as a backhanded way of undermining the Second Amendment. Gun industry leaders see the backlash as a real threat to their industry and are coming to the conclusion that they need additional protections in Congress to prevent financial retaliation from banks.

“If a few banks say ‘No, we’re not going to give loans to gun dealers or gun manufacturers,’ all of a sudden the industry is threatened and the Second Amendment doesn’t mean much if there are no guns around,” said Michael Hammond, legal counsel for Gun Owners of America.

The issue has gotten the attention of the Republican who is chairman of the Senate Banking Committee. Sen. Mike Crapo of Idaho sent letters criticizing Bank of America and Citigroup, which decided to restrict sales of firearms by its business customers, over their new gun rules in the wake of the Florida high school shooting in February.

Honor Defense is a small operation with a handful of employees that include Ramey’s son and his wife who work out of a nondescript building in a Georgia office park north of Atlanta. In 2016, its first year, it sold 7,500 firearms. Its products – handcrafted 9 mm handguns that come in a variety of colors – can be found in more than 1,000 stores.

When Ramey noticed that neither Stripe nor Intuit would process payments through his site, he submitted a complaint with Georgia’s attorney general’s office, counting on help from a state law that prohibits discrimination by financial service firms against the gun industry. But the state rejected it, saying that credit-card processing is not considered a financial service under state law.

He views the credit-card issue as companies “infusing politics into business.”

“We’re just a small company trying to survive here,” Ramey said. “It’s hard enough competing with Smith & Wesson, Ruger and Sig Sauer.”

The gun industry acknowledges that there’s nothing requiring companies from doing business with gun manufacturers or dealers. Monthly reports from the federal government show background checks to purchase a firearm are up over last year so far, so the early actions apparently have not put a dent in sales.

Still, the industry believes it needs stronger laws against financial retaliation in the future.

“We may have to seek legislation to make sure it can’t be done and that you can’t discriminate against individuals from lawful exercise of a constitutional right,” said Larry Keane, senior vice president and legal counsel for the National Shooting Sports Foundation, which represents gunmakers. “Imagine if banks were to say you can’t purchase books or certain books aren’t acceptable. That would be problematic, and I don’t think anyone would stand for that kind of activity by the banking industry.”

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