Prevent Operation Chokepoint 2.0 & Protect Gun Rights Not Just Wall Street Profits
Congress cannot allow Wall Street to profit off the legal marijuana industry while at the same time criminalizing the constitutional right to bear arms. It is unconscionable to criminalize the exercise of a God-given right because an individual engaged in legal or non-criminal activity.
In 43 states, Marijuana is either medically or recreationally legal[i]. Under the SAFER Banking Act of 2023, legal cannabis businesses would be able to collaborate with financial institutions despite marijuana not being federally legalized. However, the SAFER Banking Act does not extend this same protection to individuals who live in a state with legal marijuana that also wish to exercise their constitutionally protected right to keep a firearm in their home or carry a firearm in public for self defense.
When purchasing a firearm, gun owners must complete an unconstitutional registration Form 4473—a form not mandated by any statute. This permanent gun registration form not only records the make, model, serial number of the firearm or the name, address, and social security number of a prospective gun owner, but it also functions as an affidavit with a mandatory question asking:
Are you an unlawful user of, or addicted to, marijuana or any depressant, stimulant, narcotic drug, or any other controlled substance?
Warning: The use or possession of marijuana remains unlawful under Federal law regardless of whether it has been legalized or decriminalized for medicinal or recreational purposes in the state where you reside.[ii]
If a gun owner were to possess or use marijuana in accordance with state law and purchase a firearm, federal law makes it a felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison. Yet even the Federal Bureau of Investigation has lower standards for hiring federal agents! FBI’s employment eligibility guide states:
Candidates cannot have used marijuana or cannabis in any form (natural or synthetic) and in any location (domestic or foreign) within the one (1) year preceding the date of their application for employment.
Marijuana or cannabis use before the candidate’s 18th birthday is not a disqualifier for FBI employment, however. Adjudicative personnel will evaluate the candidate by using the “wholeperson concept.”[iii]
A recent clarification from the FBI stated that using marijuana “more than twenty-four (24) times after turning 18 years old is a disqualifier for FBI employment.”[iv] The federal government cannot, on one hand, lock gun owners in prison for lawfully using marijuana in accordance with state law while simultaneously hire pot users to be FBI agents.
Insufficient “Reputational Risk” Protections for Gun Ownership
In recent years, as a result of political pressure, banks and credit card issuers have shown an increased willingness to put restrictions on gun dealers and manufacturers seeking loans, banking services, or credit card processing.[v] These financial institutions have demanded that gun dealers put restrictions on their inventory, restrictions on the customers, and restrictions on their means of doing business. In doing so, they are following in the footsteps of the Obama administration’s “Operation Chokepoint,” which tried to dry up credit for gun-related businesses and thus force them to close their doors.[vi]
Gun Owners of America has long endorsed S. 563, the Fair Access to Banking Act, which would protect the Second Amendment community from politically motivated discrimination by the financial sector. S. 563 would prohibit large financial institutions receiving federal largesse from using our tax dollars to squelch the Second Amendment.
Given that major banks owe their existence to federal bailouts and federal depository insurance, it is inappropriate that they use that federal assistance to set themselves up as arbiters of what Second Amendment rights Americans may or may not enjoy. Unfortunately, the protections of the Financial Institution Customer Protection Act provides significantly weaker “reputational risk” protections for conservatives than S. 563. The watered-down version of this legislation included in the SAFER Banking Act is entirely insufficient.
The SAFER Banking Act would allow financial institutions to ignore the federal restrictions on marijuana yet does not extend those same privileges to those who exercise the constitutional right to keep and bear arms. The Second Amendment cannot continue to be treated as a second class right. Gun Owners of America is opposed to any legislation that expands the legal marijuana industry while at the same time denying the constitutional right to bear arms to gun owners in states where usage of marijuana is not a crime.
[iv] “FBI Loosens Marijuana Employment Policy for Would-Be Agents”. Marijuana Moment. July 7th, 2021
“FBI & BoA Broke the Law Spying on Gunowners”. Gun Owners of America. July 6th, 2023
“A new credit card code is a first step toward preventing gun violence, advocates say”. NPR. September 15th, 2022