“We have just a handful of manufacturers. They know what our intentions are,” Finucane told Bloomberg. “It’s our intention not to finance these military-style firearms for civilian use.”
Finucane did not specify a timeline for when Bank of America would implement its decision — beyond noting it would be on a “go-forward basis” — nor did she state how it would affect any current lending agreements the bank might have with such gun manufacturers.
On Wednesday, a Bank of America representative referred all questions back to Finucane’s Bloomberg Television interview.
Bank of America had been one of a number of financial institutions to vow action in the wake of the deadly school shooting in Parkland, Fla., releasing a statement on Feb. 24 that said it would “examine what we can do to help end the tragedy of mass shootings.”
“An immediate step we’re taking is to engage the limited number of clients we have that manufacture assault weapons for nonmilitary use to understand what they can contribute to this shared responsibility,” Bank of America said in February.
But Finucane’s interview was the first time the bank confirmed it would take concrete steps toward cutting off lending ties with some gun manufacturers.
“We want to contribute in any way we can to reduce these mass shootings,” Finucane told Bloomberg. “I mean that’s such a tragedy in the United States, so that’s number one.”
When asked what the manufacturers’ reactions had been to Bank of America’s decision, Finucane simply told Bloomberg it was “mixed.”
“We’ll just leave it at that,” Finucane told the news site. “They’re our clients, and we have enjoyed a relationship, but there are those that I think will reduce their portfolio, and we’ll work with them, and others that will choose to do something else.”
The Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School — one of several school attacks this year — left 17 students and staff members dead, and it immediately jolted nationwide discussions about school safety and gun control. On one end of the spectrum, in the weeks after the Florida tragedy, President Trump and others pushed a proposal to arm schoolteachers.
On the other, the tragedy seemed to galvanize a new generation of activists, including many teenagers from Parkland, in support of stricter gun control. Hundreds of thousands of protesters appeared at March for Our Lives rallies across the country March 24 to call for an end to gun violence.
Meanwhile, the tragedy also prompted a wave of responses by retailers and private companies: Dick’s Sporting Goods said it would no longer sell assault-style rifles and high-capacity magazines and that it would prohibit gun sales to people younger than 21. Walmart announced it would raise the minimum age to buy firearms or ammunition from 18 to 21 and stop carrying products resembling assault-style rifles, such as toy guns and airsoft rifles.
It’s too early to tell how much, if any, backlash Bank of America’s decision will attract. Online, some praised the bank’s action while others vowed to stop doing business with the financial institution.
Citigroup announced last month it would not do business with retail clients if they sold firearms to people younger than 21. Citigroup also said it would require its clients to not sell “bump stocks” and not sell firearms to those who did not pass a background check. Citigroup’s new policies received an icy reaction by Republican lawmakers, Politico reported.
“The very fact that Citi remains operational is due entirely to the generosity of the American taxpayers,” Sen. John Neely Kennedy (R-La.) wrote in letter to Citigroup chief executive Michael Corbat, referring to the 2008 bank bailout. “Please don’t forget that. While I am disappointed in your announcement, I look forward to addressing it in the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs.”
Several gun-violence-prevention groups praised Bank of America’s decision.
“We were heartened to see Bank of America join the list of companies stepping up to keep America safe, especially when Washington politicians are failing to take action,” Avery Gardiner, co-president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, said in a statement. “Why would anyone want to help finance assault weapons that are regularly used in mass shootings? The gun violence epidemic in this country is a uniquely American problem and it’s encouraging to see America’s corporate giants take a leading role in this fight.”
Gardiner indicated Bank of America could do more.
“There are about 20 manufacturers of assault weapons in the U.S., but more than 65,000 gun retailers nationwide — more than the number of Starbucks and McDonald’s combined,” she said. “Banks should think about what they can do with both gun manufacturers and retailers to encourage the entire gun industry to act responsibly and help keep guns out of the hands of people who have been barred from having them for the past 50 years.”
David Chipman, a senior policy adviser to the Giffords coalition to fight gun violence, told The Washington Post that he sensed Bank of America’s decision was part of a “wave” of action by businesses after the Parkland shooting that was different from any he had seen after other similar tragedies.
“It’s just a very interesting moment in our history where capitalism and the [company’s] desire to have strong ties with your customers means they’re not waiting for Congress to take action,” Chipman said. “I don’t think the public wants to go to business first … but this is how America works, if your representatives aren’t going to listen to you.”