California bill aims to choke off firearm industry's access to banks

Chuck Burton

There’s no doubt that the gun prohibitionists want to destroy the firearms industry. Even if we have the right to keep and bear arms, if we can’t acquire them, that right is largely curtailed, and anti-gun Democrats in California have been at the forefront of the efforts to litigate and regulate the industry into oblivion (while also making it a crime to build your own gun).

The latest attempt is a bill from State Sen. Dave Min, a longtime gun control supporter who’s been behind the effort to ban gun shows on state property as well as a recently-announced candidate for Congress in 2024. Under Min’s SB 637, any bank that has a relationship with a company engaged in manufacturing firearms would be barred from doing any business with the state of California. As Min himself described the legislation in his hyperbolic press release:

SB 637 will force Wall Street to make a choice between the blood money offered by the gun industry and doing business with the State of California, sending a clear message and more importantly a strong market signal that the State of California will not, either directly or indirectly, finance gun violence.”

By that metric, any bank doing business with bars, restaurants, liquor stores or distributors, or brewers and distillers is indirectly financing drunk driving and alcoholism. Why would the state of California want to be involved with that? Better amend SB 637 to bar those banks from doing business with the state of California as well.

But why stop there? If Min doesn’t want the state of California to “finance gun violence,” where’s his bill to ban California law enforcement agencies from purchasing duty weapons? After all, should a company like Smith & Wesson really benefit from the California Highway Patrol’s purchase of its M&P pistols for officers? Doesn’t that mean that California taxpayers and the state of California itself are funding violent crime?

Well, no, obviously. But if we’re going to follow Min’s argument to its illogical conclusion, that’s exactly where we end up.

Of course, this isn’t the first time anti-gunners have gone after the firearm industry’s relationships with financial institutions. Min’s bill is a reaction to laws approved in Texas and Louisiana in recent years that block banks from participating in municipal bond deals if they’ve been proven to have policies that discriminate against the firearms industry, and those laws were a response to abuses like Operation Choke Point; an Obama-era program that pressured banks into dropping customers within the industry or else open themselves up to a detailed scrutiny and auditing of their books for working with “high-risk” customers like FFLs and gun makers.

Operation Choke Point formally came to an end in 2017, but the efforts to turn the firearms industry into a financial pariah have continued, as Min’s bill clearly demonstrates. While Min’s bill doesn’t outright bar banks from doing business with gun companies, he’s not disguising the fact that he’s using the state’s financial coffers in the hopes of forcing banks to comply with his anti-2A edict.

SB 637 could potentially have an enormous impact on the gun manufacturing industry, which is heavily capitalized by major Wall Street firms. According to the California Treasurer’s Office, the state manages approximately $3.1 trillion in banking transactions within a fiscal year, including selling bonds and overseeing the state’s debt and investment portfolios. The State currently reports $63.3 billion in total General Obligation bonds outstanding.

Want access to that market? All you have to do is certify that you have no relationship with any of those icky firearms manufacturers, not even the ones that supply the firearms used by the Capitol Protection Section of the CHP tasked with protecting the lives of anti-gun lawmakers like Min.

I’d like to think that this piece of legislation is just a bit of grandstanding on Min’s part as he tries to build up his name recognition in advance of next year’s congressional primary, but this is California we’re talking about, and the anti-gun supermajority in Sacramento could easily get behind the idea, as could Gavin Newsom. The California governor loves to pick culture war fights with red states, even when his laws are deemed to be indefensible by the state’s Attorney General, and firing back at laws aimed at ending discrimination against the firearms industry by requiring those banks to discriminate seems like the kind of idiotic idea that Newsom would wholeheartedly embrace.

Forcing banks to decide between doing business with the state or gun companies shows just how much contempt Min has for our Second Amendment rights, not to mention the tens of thousands of Americans who work in the firearms industry. According to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, there are 13,000 California jobs directly tied to the firearms industry, and Min’s virtue-signaling bill would put every one of them in doubt.

Again, if Min is serious about the state of California not financing “gun violence,” then this bill is a half-measure at best, and he should go ahead and call for the disarming of every California law enforcement agency in order to ensure that the state and its political subdivisions aren’t padding the pockets of gun industry execs. But this is nothing more than Min’s anti-2A bigotry on display, and I’m sure he’ll continue to welcome the presence of armed officers at the state capitol despite the fact that taxpayer dollars were used to purchase the guns they carry to protect him and others.