Bank of America says it’s reexamining its relationships with gun manufacturers in the wake of widespread boycotts targeting the National Rifle Association (NRA). The boycotts followed a deadly shooting at Marjory Douglas Stoneman High School in Parkland, Florida, in which 17 people were killed.
“We are joining other companies in our industry to examine what we can do to help end the tragedy of mass shootings, and an immediate step we’re taking is to engage the limited number of clients we have that manufacture assault weapons for non-military use to understand what they can contribute to this shared responsibility,” a Bank of America spokesperson said in a statement to Axios on Saturday.
Financial institutions like the First National Bank of Omaha, as well as several airlines, car rental companies, and insurance companies such as MetLife, have recently cut ties with the gun lobby, many of them shutting down NRA member discount programs under pressure from consumers.
The Bank of Omaha, which offered NRA-branded credit cards, cited “customer feedback” as the reason for its initial review of its business dealings. Just days after ThinkProgress reported the card’s existence, the bank announced it would not renew its contract with the NRA after it expires.
Bank of America’s decision comes on the heels of a February 19 New York Times editorial by author and columnist Andrew Ross Sorkin, who suggested that the financial industry could push back against the massive gun lobby if credit card issuers began banning the sales of firearms using their products.
“To be clear: Those three banks won’t let you use your credit card to buy Bitcoin, but they will happily let you use it to buy an AR-15-style semiautomatic rifle — the same kind of gun used in mass shootings in Parkland; Newtown, Conn.; San Bernardino, Calif.; Las Vegas; and Sutherland Springs, Tex.,” Sorkin wrote. He added that there was precedent for such a move: in early February, several companies, including JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup and Bank of America itself, banned the use of their respective cards to purchase cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin.
“Jamie Dimon, chief executive of JPMorgan Chase, which issues credit cards and owns a payment processor, has talked about how he and his bank have ‘a moral obligation but also a deeply vested interest’ in helping ‘solve pressing societal challenges,'” Sorkin wrote. “This is your chance, Mr. Dimon.”
According to Axios, Bank of America’s most recent announcement may be part of a larger effort to keep its business practices aligned with its “Responsible Growth” strategy, a pledge to help drive the economy “in sustainable ways” by creating jobs, developing communities, fostering economic mobility, and “address[ing] society’s biggest challenges.”
Bank of America previously extended a $40 million line of credit to firearms manufacturer Sturm, Ruger & Co — better known by it’s shorter title, Ruger — in December 2007. That contract was initially set to expire in June 2017, but the bank agreed to extend the expiration date to June 2018, according to documents filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
In August 2016, Ruger announced a fundraising campaign for the NRA Institute for Legislative Action (NRA-ILA), pledging to match up to $5 million in donations.
“We wanted to offer an opportunity for folks to contribute to the NRA-ILA, knowing that their donation will be backed by a matching contribution from Ruger,” CEO Mike Fifer stated at the time. “Make no mistake, the Second Amendment is on the ballot this November and we all have to be completely committed to preserving it.”
Chris Cox, executive director of the NRA-ILA, added, “Friends, the fight is already on. If we wait until November, we will lose everything. So challenge every gun owner you know. This is a fight for our freedom!”
It’s unclear whether the Ruger contract is one of the business relationships Bank of America has pledged to reexamine.
Representatives for Bank of America did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
UPDATE: In an email to ThinkProgress, a Bank of America spokesperson reiterated the company’s earlier statement to Axios, but declined to offer any specific comment on the bank’s relationship with Ruger.