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S. 3539: No Red and Blue Banks Act

Should the government award contracts to banks which refuse to lend to certain firearms dealers?

Context

In the wake of several recent mass shootings earlier this year, Citibank and Bank of America announced they will no longer lend to those who sell bump stocks such as those used in last year’s Las Vegas massacre, produce assault weapons for non-military purposes, or sell firearms to anybody under age 21 or who hasn’t passed a background check.

In the taxpayer-funded bank bailouts of 2008–09, Citigroup received $476.2 billion while Bank of America got $336.1 billion. In addition, the federal government awards large contracts to those banks and others for services.

What the bill does

The No Red and Blue Banks Act would prevent the federal government (specifically the General Services Administration) from awarding any federal contract to a bank based upon “social policy considerations,” such as their stance on gun rights.

The bill was introduced in the Senate on October 2 as S. 3539 by Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA).

What supporters say

Supporters argue the bill ensures the federal government — whose governing document includes the Second Amendment — only does business with companies who in turn respect that amendment.

“Banks have competitive advantages as a result of government. When they use that government-provided market power to implement their version of appropriate social change, they’re in effect acting as a private regulator,” Sen. Kennedy said during a congressional hearing.

“If additional big consumer banks come out with similar anti-gun policies, it will get harder and harder for businesses in Louisiana and elsewhere to find banking services,” Kennedy added in a press release. “We’ll have red banks and blue banks.”

What opponents say

Opponents counter that such banks’ existing actions are within their rights as private businesses to decide who they will or won’t sell to, especially when done in the name of public safety rather than (for example) racial discrimination.

“It is not centered on an ideological mission to rid the world of firearms. That is not what we seek. There are millions of Americans who use firearms for recreational and other legitimate purposes, and we respect their Constitutional right to do so,” Citi Executive Vice President of Global Public Affairs Ed Skyler said in a blog post announcing the new policy.

“But we want to do our part as a company to prevent firearms from getting into the wrong hands. So our new policy centers around current firearms sales best practices that will guide those we do business with as a firm.”

“We know that the actions we are taking today will invite passion on both sides,” Skyler continued. “We don’t have the perfect solution but we have come to the conclusion that we must do our part to keep guns out of the hands of those who wish to do harm. And we hope our actions help achieve that vital goal.”

Odds of passage

The bill has not yet attracted any Senate cosponsors, although in theory its pro-gun stance would find common cause with almost every member of the Republican majority.

It awaits a potential vote in the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

Last updated Oct 16, 2018. View all GovTrack summaries.

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