TOPEKA – A bill that would ban discrimination against gun dealers and manufacturers will be considered by a Kansas Senate panel this week.
SB 331 would make it illegal to refuse to serve, terminate a business relationship with or “otherwise discriminate against a person or trade association solely because a person is engaged in the lawful commerce of firearms or ammunition products.”
The bill, titled the Kansas Firearms Industry Nondiscrimination Act, is scheduled for a Thursday hearing by the Senate Committee on Federal and State Affairs. The proposal would function similarly to laws that prevent religious or racial discrimination and allow gun dealers to sue in cases where they felt discriminated against.
Sen. Jacob LaTurner, R-Pittsburg, who introduced the bill, said it was in response to Operation Choke Point, a U.S. Justice Department initiative launched in 2013 that was aimed at preventing fraudulent businesses from using the banking system.
The initiative has faced a backlash from Republicans and the National Rifle Association, who say it has encouraged banks to sever ties with legitimate businesses deemed high risk by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, such as gun sellers.
LaTurner said his bill is “intended to give these folks an avenue to push back” and would “give the firearm industry the ability to get some protection against this incredible overreach by our president.”
“It’s not theoretical. It has happened around the country,” LaTurner said. “I’ve got a business here in Pittsburg that sells guns – they’re a great company – and if a bank decides to stop doing business with them because the feds are breathing down their necks, they need to have some recourse.”
A 2014 congressional report asserted that Operation Choke Point “has forced banks to terminate relationships with a wide variety of entirely lawful and legitimate merchants.” The U.S. House has voted to defund the program on multiple occasions.
An audit conducted by the FDIC’s inspector general, released in September, found no instances where the FDIC has pressured a financial institution to decline banking services to a firearm or ammunition dealer. Bank executives interviewed for the audit also “indicated that, except for payday lenders, they had not experienced regulatory pressure to terminate an existing customer relationship with a merchant on the high-risk list, including a firearms, ammunition, or tobacco retailer.”