Op-Ed: To Protect 2nd Amendment Rights, Kentuckians Should Support Fair Access to Financial Services

Op-Ed: To Protect 2nd Amendment Rights, Kentuckians Should Support Fair Access to Financial Services

The following op-ed is written by State Rep. Savannah Maddox (R-Dry Ridge).

Nearly a decade has passed since the Obama administration implemented Operation Chokepoint, under which the Department of Justice sought to discourage banks from doing business with industries, like the firearm industry, that the administration opposed. The Trump administration rightly discontinued this initiative in 2017. However, financial institutions have continued to cave to political pressure applied by anti-gun billionaires and gun control groups and are refusing to conduct business with the firearm industry more frequently than before.

A recent survey of firearm industry members conducted by the National Shooting Sports Foundation, Inc., demonstrated nearly 75% of surveyed businesses reported being denied financial services solely because of their affiliation with the firearm industry. Manufacturers of Modern Sporting Rifles (MSRs), firearms which are deceptively labeled “assault rifles” by anti-gun groups, are not the only ones impacted. You do not have to look far to find a shooting range offering gun safety classes that has been denied the ability to process credit cards or manufacturers of hunting equipment that have been denied business loans.

These denials are not based on legitimate credit worthiness or credit risk, but simply on political bias. This political bias on behalf of banks exists even as they receive an extraordinary amount of taxpayer-funded financial support through agencies and programs including the FDIC, Automated Clearing House, Open Window, the Federal Reserve System, and more. It is wholly inappropriate for the taxpayer- supported financial services industry to discriminate against any lawful business that provides goods which are necessary to the exercise of the Second Amendment rights of those same taxpayers.

In recent years, however, lawmakers at the state and federal level have begun to push back against this financial discrimination. For instance, a law was enacted in Georgia to prohibit discrimination against the firearm industry in 2016. In 2018, Louisiana State Treasurer John Schroder helped keep Citigroup, Inc. and Bank of America from participating in bond sales because of their policies that discriminate against the firearm industry.

The Freedom Financing Act was introduced in the last Congress by U.S. Senators Kevin Cramer (R-ND) and John Kennedy (R-LA), and in the House by Rep. Roger Williams (R-TX). Finally, earlier this month the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) finalized a rule that prohibits banking discrimination against lawful industries like the firearm industry. Acting Director of the OCC Brian Brooks summed up the threat succinctly in an op-ed recently published in Game & Fish Magazine; “If successful, the powerful interests at work will restrict Second Amendment rights and availability of sporting arms by suffocating the industry from capital and financing that make them possible. Rather than winning national policy debates through elections and facing the legal substrate of our great Constitution, loud factions are simply pestering bankers to succumb to their political will.”

As a legislator in the Commonwealth of Kentucky, I have a responsibility to stand up for the Second Amendment rights of the citizens I represent. Allowing financial discrimination against the firearms industry poses just as much of a threat to the people who seek to exercise their right to keep and bear arms as it does to the entities that supply the goods which enable them to do so. That is why I introduced House Bill 175 this Session, which passed the house earlier this week and awaits consideration in the Kentucky Senate. This bill does not prevent any bank or financial institution from making standard business decisions, nor does it preclude them from making legitimate determinations pertaining to credit worthiness or credit risk. It does, however, stipulate that financial institutions may not implement a policy of discriminating against the firearm industry at large. This bill was filed in support of over 4,000 Kentuckians who are currently employed by the firearm industry, as well as several thousand law enforcement and military personnel who rely on equipment and facilities that the Kentucky firearm industry supports. This legislation is for all Kentuckians who exercise their Second Amendment rights today, and for all who will do so in the future.

Representative Savannah Maddox (R) represents Kentucky’s District 61 in the Commonwealth’s General Assembly.