Most Senate Republicans are demanding special rights for firearms businesses.
A bill filed last week by Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-ND) would grant special anti-discrimination protections to gun companies and other socially irresponsible businesses. And most of his GOP colleagues have signed on as co-sponsors of his bill, which would require banks to loan money to firearm and ammunition manufacturers.
In a press release on Wednesday, Cramer touted his "Fair Access to Banking Act" as "a bill to prevent discrimination by banks and financial service providers against constitutionally-protected industries and law-abiding businesses."
If enacted, it would bar banks and credit card companies from deciding not to work with gun-related businesses or fossil fuel companies — even if they deem it a long-term financial gamble to do so.
"Fairness matters. There is no place in our society for discrimination, and big banks are no exception," wrote Cramer, who has voted against LGBTQ rights 100% of the time and received an "F" rating from the NAACP on civil rights issues. "Financial service providers do not have the right to circumvent the Constitution or the law to create de-facto bans on legally-compliant businesses like energy producers or firearms manufacturers when they believe it is politically convenient."
The legislation is co-sponsored by 26 other Senate Republicans.
If enacted, their proposal would extend civil rights protections typically granted to groups that have historically faced discrimination to the makers of products that kill tens of thousands of Americans every year.
In recent years, several prominent banks have said they will not finance new oil and gas drilling projects in the Arctic. Climate change activists have urged this as a way to discourage greenhouse gas emissions.
In the aftermath of recent mass shootings, some financial services companies also announced they would no longer offer financing to assault-style weapons manufacturers.
In the final days of the Donald Trump administration, his Office of the Comptroller of the Currency attempted to do something similar via regulation. Their proposed "Fair Access to Financial Services" rule would have barred banks from exercising moral judgment about whether to do business with the gun industry and dirty energy companies.
In December, House Financial Services Committee Chair Maxine Waters and 22 Democratic members of her committee denounced the idea as unnecessary and insensitive.
"The well-documented pattern of systemic discrimination in depriving communities of color of equal access to credit bears no resemblance to financial institutions taking actions to reduce their exposure to climate risk, as well as other financial stability risks identified by prudential regulators," they wrote, "and we find it offensive to make any comparison in that manner."
According to Cramer's announcement, his bill is backed by the National Rifle Association and the National Shooting Sports Foundation (the trade association for the firearm industry).
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.