Bank of America Corp. plans to stop lending to companies that make assault-style guns used for non-military purposes.
“It’s our intention not to finance these military-style firearms for civilian use,” Anne Finucane, a vice chairman at Bank of America, said Tuesday in a Bloomberg Television interview. The firm has had “intense conversations over the last few months” with those kinds of gun manufacturers to tell them it won’t finance their operations in the future, she said.
It’s the first time an executive at the nation’s second-largest bank has publicly laid out how it will deal with gun-industry clients following Feb. 14 shootings at a high school in Parkland, Florida, that left 17 people dead. The massacre set off a wave of pressure on banks, payments processors and other firms to cut services to the firearms industry and on money managers to stop investing in gunmakers. The response has varied.
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Citigroup Inc., the nation’s fourth-largest bank, said in March it plans to prohibit retail chains that are its customers from offering bump stocks or selling guns to anyone who hasn’t passed a background check or is younger than 21. Investors including BlackRock Inc. and State Street Corp. are engaging with companies in their portfolios over firearms policies.
“We were heartened to see Bank of America join the list of companies stepping up to keep America safe,” said Avery Gardiner, co-president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, one of the most prominent gun control groups. “Why would anyone want to help finance assault weapons that are regularly used in mass shootings?”
Finucane said Bank of America also won’t underwrite securities issued by manufacturers of military-style guns used by civilians.
Reaction to the firm’s plans has been “mixed” among gun companies, she said. “There are those that will reduce their portfolios, and we’ll work with them, and others that will do something else,” she said, speaking on the sidelines of the Future of Energy Global Summit in New York hosted by Bloomberg New Energy Finance.
At least a half-dozen of the nation’s major gun manufacturers produce military-style firearms, including Remington Outdoor Co., Sturm Ruger & Co., SIG Sauer, Vista Outdoor Inc., O.F. Mossberg & Sons and American Outdoor Brands Corp. The National Shooting Sports Foundation, a firearms industry lobby, puts the economic impact of the gun and ammunition industry at $51.1 billion nationwide in 2017.
That organization criticized the bank’s move on Tuesday, saying it’s wrong to deem semiautomatic rifles long available to civilians to be military-style weapons.
“We as an industry would welcome the opportunity to sit down with Bank of America executives and explain our industry’s perspective to discuss what really would work to keep firearms out of the hands of those who should not have them,” said Michael Bazinet, a spokesman for the NSSF. “We should be part of the discussion.”
Bank of America has helped finance Vista Outdoor Inc., an outdoor goods and shooting industry brand, and Remington, a bankrupt firearms maker.