After North Carolina gun dealer Luke Lichterman’s business account was denied a check processing service by HomeTrust Bank in Asheville, NC, he dug in, determined to get answers. Citing a 2013 Department of Justice regulation dubbed “Operation Choke Point” which barred them from serving a “risky” business, the bank’s decision threatened to strangle this 75-year-old’s livelihood.
When Lichterman asked the banker for another example of an industry that HomeTrust Bank wouldn’t do business with, he couldn’t believe his ears: “Pornography,” the banker replied.
“I really had to stop from laughing,” Lichterman recalled. “I said, I’m not a pornographer. I deal in constitutionally protected goods.”
“I was aware of Operation Choke Point and that it was intended to make it impossible for people with a fraudulent business to do banking,” Lichterman said. “But I sell firearms, which is constitutionally protected, and am licensed by the federal government to sell firearms.”
Lichterman’s company, a web-based gun and tactical store called Hunting and Defense Wholesale was denied the service on March 11, 2016. But Lichterman’s determination and the efforts by advocacy groups have finally paid off.
“The pressure brought by groups like the Second Amendment Foundation against ‘Operation Choke Point’ and financial institutions who were intimidated by the Obama administration has resulted in not only exposing the attack on the lawful firearms industry but has forced many banks to back off this attack on a constitutionally protected right,” said Alan Gottlieb, founder of the Second Amendment Foundation.
Lichterman can now use a check processing service that costs him 10 cents per transaction through his local bank rather than other options which would have eaten up his already thin profit margin in no time, putting him out of business.
“I would have been unable to continue doing business at credit card rates because the internet is the most competitive marketplace on earth and a dealer will buy a gun from one guy because it’s a dollar less than another,” he said. “Being able to do these transactions and save the 4.5 percent of every transaction, you do a $1,000 transaction, you’re looking at $40.”
Kelsey Harkness, a journalist with The Daily Signal who broke the story on the controversial DOJ program’s impact on firearms dealers, explained Operation Choke Point via YouTube: