After a long debate, the SAFER Banking Act is making its way out of committee and onto the floor of the Senate for a vote.
The Act would allow banks to work with cannabis businesses without penalty. It currently enjoys bipartisan support in the Senate, but there are some sinister consequences for firearms businesses due to loose language hidden in the text of the Act.
As currently written, the law does not sufficiently protect the firearms industry from the abuse of banks or regulators to harm firearms businesses in a manner similar to “Operation Chokepoint” of the Obama era.
The law states that Federal Banking regulators can recommend to financial service providers de-bank businesses that they suspect of breaking a rule or condition from a federal agency like ATF.
Consider that currently, the Biden administration has imposed a “Zero Tolerance Policy” on FFLs, which makes mundane and simple mistakes such as misspelling an abbreviation on a form into federal crimes for which a gun store could now be penalized.
ATF’s published data concerning its compliance inspections in 2020 reflects that it conducted 5,823 inspections and found and reported errors in 43.7% of those inspections.
ATF’s compliance inspections for 2022 increased over 2020 by 1,156 inspections to 6,979 inspections, and ATF’s data reflects that it found and reported errors in 45.5% of the inspected FFLs. In summary, a failure to clarify whether the language in the law applies only to banking regulations could result in nearly half of all gun stores losing access to financial services!
Gun Owners know full well how statutory language can be redefined and weaponized with a simple rule change and agency definition.
ATF routinely issues contradictory guidance letters to the firearm industry, refuses to publish the guidance publicly, and has even reversed such guidance in a way that criminalizes millions of customers and shuts down entire companies.
Members of the firearms industry will not only have to deal with rogue ATF regulators in court but could also be cut off from essential financial services because of this “informal guidance.”
In addition, a provision of the law imposes strict liability on account holders who deal with “a threat to national security,” someone involved in “other illicit financing,” or is “engaged in… any other criminal activity.”
This could affect members of the firearms industry even if they were unaware that they were selling to potential national threats or criminals.
For instance, criminals often deceive gun stores by lying on form 4473 to buy firearms illegally. During Operation Fast and Furious, the government even permitted Mexican cartel agents to buy guns from FFLs. Under this provision, firearms businesses could be de-banked for the actions of criminals regardless of whether the FFL was unaware of the criminal activity.
The SAFER Banking Act also clarifies that federal regulators should recommend de-banking businesses whose customers pose a “national security threat,” posing a huge threat to the entire firearm industry. Especially given that national security agencies increasingly label gun owners as “Militia Violent Extremists” or “Domestic Violent Extremists.”
Gun stores have little protection from this extensive and imperfect list of reasons to deny them financial services.
So, what are we doing to combat this attack on the firearms industry?
Gun Owners of America supports the Fair Access to Banking Act. This Act aims to prevent large financial institutions that benefit from federal funding, not just anti-gun regulators, from discriminating against the Second Amendment community.
Considering that major banks owe their existence to federal bailouts and federal depository insurance, they shouldn’t dictate the scope of Americans’ Second Amendment rights.
The SAFER Banking Act permits financial institutions to bypass federal marijuana restrictions but doesn’t grant the same leniency for gun ownership rights. The Act treats the Second Amendment as inferior.
Gun Owners of America opposes any laws that promote the legal marijuana industry while undermining gun rights in states where marijuana use is legal.