Should the Federal Government Penalize Banks for Discriminating Against the Gun Industry?

Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., listens to Dennis Kooren, who chairs the Fargo Pension Protection Committee, during a meeting of the group at Marlin's restaurant in Fargo Tuesday, Aug. 7. Tu-Uyen Tran / Forum News Service

A tactic of the left in recent years is to bring political pressure to bear on banks which fund or otherwise do business with industries our liberal friends don’t like.

Because nothing says progressive like ideological ostracism.

The oil and coal industries are one target of this push. Recently socialist Rep. Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez harangued the CEO of Wells Fargo during a hearing over his bank financing the Dakota Access Pipeline

The firearms industry is another target. Banks have increasingly taken to restricting and even outright denying financial services, including things like credit card processing, to companies in the gun business.

This is a worrisome trend, and now some in Congress want to act. To address discrimination against the gun industry, specifically, Senator Kevin Cramer has introduced legislation which would penalize banks which engage in it:

The North Dakota Republican’s “Freedom Financing Act” would curb banks’ access to loans from the Federal Reserve’s discount window if they refused to serve legal firearms businesses for reasons outside of “traditional” underwriting.

The bill would also restrict payment card networks from declining to serve the industry because of political or reputational concerns.

“A small number of banks controlling most of the financial sector could effectively illegalize legal commerce by refusing to finance certain industries or process certain transactions,” Cramer said. “Look no further than pro-Second Amendment industries where such discrimination has already occurred. Big banks should not be the arbiters of constitutionality.”

This is not a simple issue. In the case involving the baker who didn’t want to make a cake for a homosexual wedding, most conservatives (including this one and, I’m quite certain, Senator Cramer) come down on the side of the baker.

Like the baker’s decision or not, he should have the right to make it.

So why, then, can’t a bank decide who they want to do business with?

You can argue that the situations aren’t quite apples-to-apples. When Cramer talks about a “small number of banks controlling most of the financial sector” he’s not wrong. It’s relatively easy to find another bakery, but there aren’t that aren’t nearly so many choices for credit card processing, which is a must for any business in this increasingly post-cash world.

Also, while Cramer’s legislation deals specifically with the gun industry, the principle behind his move is more universal. If we are arguing that banks ought not discriminate against their customers on ideological grounds, can we also force banks to provide services to hate groups? A white supremacist is an awful thing to be, but it is not in and of itself illegal.

I would like it if the financial industry didn’t discriminate. I would like it if we could all accept that business is business, and as long as a given business or industry isn’t breaking the law, they ought to have the same access to services as the rest of us. I’m not sure I’m ready to enforce that stand with the law, even as we watch corporate giants from banks to the tech industry cave to leftist political pressure.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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