Major institutions across the U.S. are taking a stand in the debate over gun control.
Many gun control advocates believe this is a great move by American corporations. But what does it mean when corporations are punishing customers for behavior that is not illegal? Could these businesses become moral police?
This is a Reality Check you won’t get anywhere else.
In response to the latest mass shooting event in Parkland, Florida, major corporations and banks are now instituting their own gun control policies. Let’s first look at how banks are getting involved.
Bank of America announced just 10 days after the parkland shooting that it would begin conversations with its customers who manufacture guns to, “examine what we can do to help end the tragedy of mass shootings.”
Then in mid-March Citigroup revealed it would institute its own restrictions on gun manufacturer clients. The bank has since banned its business customers from selling guns to anyone under 21, and from selling high-capacity magazines and bump stocks altogether.
And now, Bank of America will no longer lend to gun manufacturers, including current loan customers Vista Outdoors and Remington.
While banks are private institutions, there are questions here about why banks would not lend to companies that are not doing anything illegal, but that the bank’s executives simply don’t agree with.
According to Bank of America’s annual shareholder meeting in April, a shareholder named Justin Danhof, the director of the free enterprise project, asked CEO Brian Moynihan how much business the bank was sending away, noting that Warren Buffett said he wouldn’t make a similar move in his business.
In response, Moynihan said that the choice was in response to those associated with the bank who were impacted by the parkland shooting. Without citing any figures, Moynihan said, “this comes from our teammates saying we have to help.”
Yet Bank of America, the second largest bank in the U.S., has made a unilateral decision that imposes a political view on its employees and shareholders.
Remember, these banks have trillions of dollars in assets. Bank of America alone serves 3 million small business owners in the U.S. and because their policies affect so many people, these banks can sway policy in our country without a single vote cast.
Now, what about the major retailers in the U.S. stepping into the gun control debate?
According to the New York Times, Dick’s Sporting Goods and Walmart, two of the nation’s leading gun sellers, have opted to further restrict customers by raising the age to purchase any firearm to 21.
Dick’s Sporting Goods has removed what it calls assault-style weapons from all of its stores’ shelves.
And Walmart went even further. The retailer will stop selling toy and air guns that resemble assault-style guns.
The actions these major corporations have taken to address gun control highlights the power to punish customers for legal behavior.
But can’t customers vote with their dollar and choose to bank or buy products with a company that highlights their values?
Yes you can vote with your dollar, but it’s very hard when so few corporations are so large and impose their will. And that’s what you need to know.
The problem here is when major, private companies have centralized control. In a free market, corporations should be able to do what they want. If you don’t like it, you support a competitor.
But that’s not the system we have in the U.S.
Instead, it’s a system where cronyism has allowed a few large corporations to have massive control, and there are huge hurdles to anyone trying to create an alternative.