A number of financial institutions are reassessing their relationship with the gun industry in the wake of the Parkland shooting. Citigroup, for example, recently announced a new policy requiring retail sector clients to not sell firearms to anybody under 21, not sell bump stocks or high-capacity magazines, and not sell firearms to anybody who hasn’t passed a background check. Now another major bank, Bank of America, is wading into the gun debate, announcing it would no longer lend to companies that make “military-style” rifles for civilians.
Bank of America’s Stance
Anne Finucane, a vice chairman at Bank of America, sat down for an interview with Bloomberg Television earlier this week when she was asked about BofA’s stance on lending to manufacturers that make “certain weapons.”
“We do have a few manufacturers of military-style firearms,” Finucane replied. “We have let them know that it’s not our intent to underwrite or finance military-style firearms on a go-forward basis.”
Back in February, BofA said in a statement after Parkland that it would “engage” with clients who make “assault weapons” in order to “understand what they can contribute to this shared responsibility” of stemming the tide of mass shootings. Finucane’s comments represents the first time a BofA executive has publicly discussed its stance on the issue.
“We want to contribute in any way we can to reduce these mass shootings,” Finucane stated. “I mean that’s such a tragedy in the United States, so that’s number one.”
Finucane added that BofA has had “intense conversations” with its gun industry clients over the past couple of months. “It’s our intention not to finance these military-style firearms for civilian use,” she said.
The reaction to that news, Finucane says, was decidedly “mixed. We’ll just leave it at that.” She also said BofA would “work” with companies that choose to “reduce their portfolios,” but those that choose not to would have to “do something else.”
Would BofA also end its relationship with retailers that sell “military-style firearms? Finucane said, “The problem with that is that gets into civil liberties and the Second Amendment. That’s a good public dialogue, but that’s a ways off.”
Unsurprisingly, gun control groups like Everytown for Gun Safety and the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence celebrated the move.
“We were heartened to see Bank of America join the list of companies stepping up to keep America safe,” Avery Gardiner, co-president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, said in a statement. “Why would anyone want to help finance assault weapons that are regularly used in mass shootings?”
Meanwhile, the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) criticized BofA’s decision, saying it had hoped for a more nuanced approach.
“We as an industry would welcome the opportunity to sit down with Bank of America executives to explain our industry’s perspective and to discuss what really would work to keep firearms out of the hands of those who should not have them,” said Mike Bazinet, a NSSF public affairs director. “We should be part of the discussion.”