Citigroup announced this week that it will use its clout with its business partners to make it more difficult to buy guns. It’s a great step, but far short of what credit card companies could do if they really wanted to limit gun sales.
Citigroup is setting restrictions on the sale of firearms by its business customers, making it the first Wall Street bank to take a stance in the divisive nationwide gun control debate.
The new policy, announced Thursday, prohibits the sale of firearms to customers who have not passed a background check or who are younger than 21. It also bars the sale of bump stocks and high-capacity magazines. It would apply to clients who offer credit cards backed by Citigroup or borrow money, use banking services or raise capital through the company.
The rules, which the company described as “common-sense measures,” echo similar restrictions established by some major retailers, like Walmart. But they also represent the boldest such move to emerge from the banking sector.
There are few details on the policy, which is a less effective, trickier-to-execute version of the policy Aaron Ross Sorkin proposed in February.
Visa, which published a 71-page paper in 2016 espousing its “corporate responsibility,” could easily change its terms of service to say that it won’t do business with retailers that sell assault weapons, high-capacity magazines and bump stocks, which make semiautomatic rifles fire faster. (Even the National Rifle Association has said it would support tighter restrictions on bump stocks.)
There is precedent for banks barring customers from using their credit cards for certain purchases: JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup and Bank of America do not allow their cards to be used to buy virtual currencies.
If Mastercard were to do the same, assault weapons would be eliminated from virtually every firearms store in America because otherwise the sellers would be cut off from the credit card system.
If card companies drag their feet, their biggest customers are positioned to nudge them forward.
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