Sen. John Kennedy: Gun rights are being threatened by big banks

Taxpayers have long memories, especially when it comes to how their hard-earned money is spent. I bet taxpayers remember providing more than $812 billion to Citigroup and Bank of America, two Wall Street banks, in 2009 to bail them out during the 2008 financial crisis.

Taxpayers remember that generosity; big banks evidently don’t. Wall Street apparently takes and then forgets, and then comes after the guns of law-abiding American citizens and small businesses.

In an act of immense corporate overreach, Citigroup issued a press release in March saying it will penalize banking clients who follow federal, state and local laws regarding gun sales. Citigroup’s new policy tells businesses what kind of firearms and accessories they can stock in their stores, and who they can sell them to.

Not to be outdone, Bank of America announced that it will no longer loan money to businesses that manufacture semi-automatic rifles. Because of this, many small businesses in my home state of Louisiana and other states will lose their banking services simply for refusing to abandon their constitutionally protected Second Amendment rights. This is a slap in the face to every American who helped bail these banks out.

Both Citigroup and Bank of America are considered by the U.S. government to be “systemically important banks.” That means they are “too big to fail.”

These banks act as a source of credit for households, businesses and local and state governments. They are a source of liquidity for the entire banking system. Their corporate policies affect every corner of our economy, from big banks to small businesses and local consumers.

If the banking system worked like a grocery store, I would still disagree with these new rules, but I would respect the right of Citigroup and Bank of America to enact whatever corporate policies align with their beliefs.

Grocery stores might decide not to sell liquor or lottery tickets, even though it’s legal for people of a certain age to buy them. Grocery stores might ask customers to leave their firearms at home.

But banks are not grocery stores. A grocery store doesn’t need a taxpayer-funded government charter to operate, a taxpayer-funded government corporation (the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation) to insure its deposits, or a taxpayer-funded government bank to pay it interest. Banks do.

One grocery store doesn’t get so big that it lends and borrows and buys and sells from nearly every other grocery store in the country. These banks do. A grocery store also doesn’t need or get an $812.3 billion bailout from the American taxpayers.

By playing politics and forcing policies that trample on the Second Amendment, Citigroup and Bank of America have established red banks and blue banks. If other Wall Street banks come out with similar anti-gun policies, it will become harder and harder for Louisiana businesses and businesses around the country to find banking services without first slapping an anti-Second Amendment sign on their doors.

I understand that Citigroup and Bank of America are reacting to the horrible tragedies that have unfolded at schools across the country. These were senseless acts of violence perpetrated by absolute monsters. But we cannot – and should not – take away guns from law-abiding citizens because there is evil in this world.

We also cannot allow Wall Street banks to rewrite the Second Amendment just because they’re too big to fail. They’re only still in business due to the generosity of the American taxpayer, over 100 million of whom choose to own a gun, as is their right. It seems that Citigroup and Bank of America have very short memories.