Oklahoma lawmakers take aim at anti-gun businesses

(AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)

Last year, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed a bill into law that forbids financial institutions that discriminate against gun companies from taking part in the state’s municipal bond market, a move that has met with mixed success. Now Texas’ neighbor to the north is expanding on the idea. The Oklahoma State Senate approved a measure on Wednesday that would prohibit any state contracts from being signed with businesses that “discriminate against a firearm entity or firearm trade association” over the objections of a handful of Democrats in the chamber.

Sen. Casey Murdock, R-Felt, said the firearm industry is under attack. He is the Senate author of the measure.

Some banks have policies that say they will not loan money to gun and ammunition makers that sell high-capacity magazines or long rifles to those under 21, Murdock said.

“The bill states that if you have these policies, the state of Oklahoma will not do business with your company,” Murdock said.

Murdock said the state can have a policy that says it will not spend taxpayer dollars with companies that have policies that go against Second Amendment rights.

Sen. Mary Boren, D-Norman, said it was an attempt to micromanage global corporations all over the world based on particular cultural issue or values or concerns held in a state with a super Republican majority.

… Sen. Julia Kirt, D-Oklahoma City, said excluding some companies will increase costs for the state.

The bill would apply to political subdivisions, including cities and counties, Kirt said.

“The bill undermines the free market and excludes us from getting the capital we need, besides sending the wrong message to the rest of the country,” Kirt said.

Sen. Kevin Matthews, D-Tulsa, called it a “political stunt.”

Is it a political stunt? Well, maybe a little, especially given the caveats in the legislation’s fine print, which defines discrimination in this case as refusing “to engage in the trade of any goods or services with the entity or association based solely on its status as a firearm entity or firearm trade association,” refraining “from continuing an existing business relationship with the entity or association based solely on its status as a firearm entity or firearm trade association,” or terminating “an existing business relationship with the entity or association based solely on its status as a firearm entity or firearm trade association.”

What we’ve seen from big banks like Citigroup and JP Morgan isn’t an outright refusal to do business with any and all gun companies, but rather requirements that their customers who own or operate businesses in the firearms industry must comply with in order to maintain their relationship with the financial institution. The New York Times laid out Citigroup’s policy when it was first enacted back in 2018.

The new policy, announced Thursday, prohibits the sale of firearms to customers who have not passed a background check or who are younger than 21. It also bars the sale of bump stocks and high-capacity magazines. It would apply to clients who offer credit cards backed by Citigroup or borrow money, use banking services or raise capital through the company.

The rules, which the company described as “common-sense measures,” echo similar restrictions established by some major retailers, like Walmart. But they also represent the boldest such move to emerge from the banking sector.

It’s unclear to me whether Citigroup would actually be impacted by the bill approved by the Oklahoma Senate, despite what Sen. Murdock says, because the company isn’t refusing to do business with any company solely because of their status as a “firearm entity or firearm trade association.” Indeed, any and all gun companies are more than welcome to keep doing business with Citigroup, as long as they adhere to its corporate gun control policies.

The practical effect of the bill may not be fully known unless and until it becomes law, but the intention is clear enough: the state of Oklahoma will limit its contracts with entities that take a dim view of our right to keep and bear arms. That’s a position worth supporting, even if I think the legislation could use a little tweaking to put some teeth into it.