FRONT PAGE CONTRIBUTOR
Gun Stores, Credit Ratings And The 2nd Amendment
Is Operation Chokepoint An End Run Around The Constitution?
I’m not a weapons expert myself. The last time I fired was years ago on a US Army range. I’m not necessarily the RS.com go-to guy on 2nd Amendment Issues. However, I do like the other nine amendments in The Bill of Rights just fine, and therefore am more than willing to have 2nd Amendment Defenders’ backs when the government deliberately oversteps their authority to intentionally curb gun ownership. I believe that such is very much the case with recent FDIC activities referred to as Operation Choke Point.
The original intentions behind Operation Choke Point were not actually aimed specifically at the firearms industry. The Justice Department became concerned that a growing number of fraudulent transactions were being run through credit payment processors to launder money and defraud people. The problem has come from the government’s decision to implement Choke Point by targeting entire ”shady”industries rather than investigating for individual bad apples. They are currently targeting payday loan centers, pornography outlets and gun stores. The FDIC has instructed banks to consider these entire industries high-risk ventures with respect to credit.
This has led to predictable pushback from individuals in targeted classes who consider themselves honorable, work-a-day Americans.
“We have no more interest than does federal law enforcement in having fraudulent merchants in our network. We’re financially liable when something goes wrong with those merchants,” Oxman said. “To suggest, as Operation Choke Point does, that payment companies are sharing an interest with fraudulent merchants in providing services that violates consumer protection laws is unfair and incorrect.”
Another problem with Operation Choke Point is that it damages the ability of the economy to efficiently function by impeding the velocity of credit monies. If credit card servers start cutting off service to these newly-designated high-risk entities, merchants lose contact points with their consumers. Forget about E-Commerce. You can’t stick an Andrew Jackson in your fax-modem as valid payment. They certainly couldn’t fax you back $0.35 change!
Where Operation Choke Point starts potentially strangling constitutional liberties is when it deliberately targets firearms stores as a category of evil-doers. There is a critical distinction to be made here. A firearms dealer that deliberately engages in financial fraud to sell a veritable armory to a drug syndicate or an international terrorist organization is an existential threat to civil society and should be condignly removed. However, deliberately targeting the entire retail end of the firearms business because some retailers are behaving in a dangerous and unethical fashion does in fact infringe the constitutional right to keep and bear arms. At that point, Operation Choke Point violates the US Constitution in its current, amended form.
So the logical question becomes: “Is the DOJ acting in ways to discourage commerce in certain industries even if said commerce could and does occur in a manner that completely complies with the current legal statutes?” Recent events suggest that such is the case with respect to businesses that sell firearms. The Washington Times reports on some examples follow below.
• T.R. Liberti, owner and operator of Top Gun Firearms Training & Supply in Miami, has felt the sting firsthand. Last month, his local bank, BankUnited N.A., dumped his online business from its service. An explanatory email from the bank said: “This letter in no way reflects any derogatory reasons for such action on your behalf. But rather one of industry. Unfortunately your company’s line of business is not commensurate with the industries we work with.”
• Black Rifle Armory in Henderson, Nevada, had its bank accounts frozen this month as the bank tried to determine whether any of Black Rifle’s online transactions were suspicious.
• In 2012, Bank of America suddenly dropped the 12-year account of McMillan Group International, a gun manufacturer in Phoenix, even though the company had a good credit history, the owner said. Gun parts maker American Spirit Arms in Scottsdale, Arizona, received similar treatment by Bank of America, the country’s largest banking institution.
Operation Choke Point could become a decent and necessary operation. Now it has become tainted because it is being executed in a lazy and perhaps a politically hostile manner. I appreciate that giving the so-called Black Internet unfettered access to the credit system will reap a bonanza for thieves, murders, kidnappers and criminals of every background. I won’t cry in the slightest if Eric Holder starts busting porn-star banks using legitimate police procedures based on provable violations of constitutionally valid laws. However, the DOJ should be looking for bad and malignant individuals and not profiling entire industries. If racial profiling bothers AG Holder in the slightest, industrial profiling (assuming the activity engaged in is lawful to begin with) should also give Mr. Holder equal pause.
Furthermore, The United States Constitution provides US Citizens the right to keep and bear arms. Using regulatory actions to deliberately infringe this right therefore violates the spirit of our nation’s founding document. This is not something our government’s activities should even have the appearance of in any way condoning.