WASHINGTON, D.C. – For Survival Industry business owners and American consumers that want access to firearms and knives, some news this weekend was a cause for celebration.
According to The Heritage Foundation’s news publication, The Daily Signal, on Friday the Justice Department ended Operation Choke Point, the Obama Administration policy that denied access to banks and financial services to legal businesses like firearms dealers, gun stores and even knife manufacturers.
Republican House members announced Friday that the Justice Department has ended the controversial Obama-era program targeting payday lenders, gun shops, and other legal businesses, in response to several House Republicans who requested Operation Choke Point be shut down.
“We share your view that law-abiding businesses should not be targeted simply for operating in an industry that a particular administration might disfavor,” Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd wrote the GOP lawmakers in a letter dated Aug. 16.
Fred Lucas, The Daily Signal’s White House correspondent, broke the news this weekend. However, it’s uncertain if banks like Wells Fargo will reinstate business’ right to access the bank’s services.
In August last year, Paratus Business News reported that legal businesses like Steel Will Knives were denied financial services by having their accounts closed by Wells Fargo. But in response, the bank claimed its actions were not attributed to Operation Choke Point, but to a marketing, public relations decision.
What happens next is anybody’s guess. But the National Shooting Sports Foundation isn’t rejoicing just yet. It’s taking action.
Good Step Forward, More Still at Risk
The NSSF praised the move by Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the Trump Administration, but the organization says discrimination is still taking place against legal businesses and it believes this positive step is not enough.
“We are very pleased by DOJ’s announcement as NSSF, the industry’s trade association, led the fight against Operation Choke Point as it pertains to members of our industry,” said Lawrence G. Keane, NSSF’s senior vice president and general counsel. “Unfortunately, and demonstrative of the dangerous and insidious nature of Operation Choke Point, there is no way for us to calculate the damage that was done to industry members.”
Furthermore, Keane said Operation Choke Point is an example of a larger problem industry members must contend with, and that is discrimination – refusal to do business with law-abiding, heavily regulated, federally-licensed businesses that are engaged in the constitutionally protected lawful commerce in firearms and ammunition products.
He recounted an example of discrimination just this past week when a manufacturer was cut off by a credit card payment processor because its bank refused to do business with any business involved in selling firearms. And another large, well-known manufacturer received a form letter from a national bank saying it was closing the manufacturer’s account and would not do business with them because they are engaged in selling firearms.
“Other service providers discriminate as well, e.g. Facebook, Google AdWords, YouTube, Square, Intuit QuickBooks, internet service providers, etc.,” he said. “This is why NSSF has pursued the a Firearms Industry Non-discrimination (FIND) Act. A version of the law was recently enacted in the state of Georgia. The FIND Act would say that it is an unfair and deceptive trade practice to refuse to (or to refuse to continue to) do business with a federal firearms licensee simply because they are engaged in the lawful and heavily regulated commerce in firearms and ammunition products.”
For now, the Justice Dept. and members of Congress disagreed with the goals of Operation Choke Point and the actions taken by the banks, thus ending the program.
The letter continued, saying the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation “subsequently rescinded its list of purportedly ‘high risk’ merchants. The Department of Justice strongly agrees with that withdrawal. All of the Department’s bank investigations conducted as part of Operation Choke Point are now over, the initiative is no longer in effect and it will not be undertaken again.”
In a joint statement, four House Republicans praised the decision.
“We applaud the Trump Justice Department for decisively ending Operation Choke Point,” said the joint statement by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va.; House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas; and Reps. Tom Marino, R-Pa.; Blaine Luetkemeyer, R-Mo.; and Darrell Issa, R-Calif.
“The Obama administration created this ill-advised program to suffocate legitimate businesses to which it was ideologically opposed by intimidating financial institutions into denying banking services to those businesses,” the GOP lawmakers said.
Last week, these five House Republicans wrote a letter to agencies asking for the program to end.
Critics said Operation Choke Point would unfairly target politically unpopular industries such as gun sellers and payday lenders. The Obama administration under Attorney General Eric Holder established Operation Choke Point in 2012 to attack internet, telemarketing, mail, and other mass market fraud against consumers, by choking off access to the banking system.
The program uses federal banking regulators to pressure banks out of doing business with entire industries the government declares to be “high risk.” The program expanded to legal business owners who complained they were unfairly denied credit for loans.
To read the entire story, and the letters from Congress calling for the end to Operation Choke Point, click here to visit The Heritage Foundation’s latest publication of The Daily Signal.