Saturday, December 3, 2016

Operation Choke Point

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For those following the Obama Administrations efforts to attack the gun industry, drive up gun costs, swallow ammunition supplies and persecute Americans who choose to exercise the Second Amendment rights, comes another story from the annals of “Operation Choke Point” – a scheme to stop banks and credit card companies from processing payments from businesses that cater to gun owners.

This time, the complaint comes from a small business owner in Central Florida who alleges that she was denied service by one of the largest banks in the United States because she sells guns.

Peggy Craig, owner of Michael’s Pawn and Gun in Fruitland Park, Florida told The Daily Signal that TD Bank’s decision to black list her business was “a slap in the face”…that “affects my livelihood, it affects how I feel, and I think it’s total bias and discrimination.”

The incident happened on May 7 when Craig called TD Bank about a new line of credit to buy inventory and pay for advertising for her small, 23-year-old pawn and gun store. When a TD Bank representative pulled up the shop’s Facebook page and realized that she sells guns, the representative told her, “We can’t lend to anyone who sells firearms.”

“The phone call probably didn’t even last two minutes, at best,” Craig said. “She hadn’t even got to things like Social Security numbers or income … it was just [asking for my] address and how many years we’ve been in business.”

The second the bank found out Craig sold guns, “It was boom, end of conversation,” Craig said.

When The Daily Signal inquired about the incident, TD Bank said it did not have a blanket policy against doing business with the gun industry. A bank spokesman said, “This is not a bank policy, and might have been miscommunicated.”

Craig isn’t alone. In March, SunTrust Bank closed the accounts of a Brooksville, Florida pawnshop that sells guns pointing to is policy to block service to three legal industries – payday lenders, pawnshops and dedicated check-cashers.

Some Republican lawmakers believe banks refusing to do business with gun makers, distributors and retailers are being threatened by federal regulators.

“Federal regulators have created an environment for banks that forces them to turn away legal law-abiding business that bureaucrats disagree with for fear of investigation or increased scrutiny—both of which carry high costs and regulatory hurdles,” Rep. Dennis A. Ross, R-Fla., told The Daily Signal.

Ross, along with other Republicans on the House Financial Services Committee, is investigating banks that terminate relationships with legal and legitimate industries. Some in Congress believe a Justice Department program known as “Operation Choke Point” is to blame.

“Operation Choke Point” was originally created to cut off funding to illegal businesses and businesses found guilty of committing fraud in the financial services industry.

To carry out the program, the Justice Department worked with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), which guarantees bank deposits up to a limit, to coerce banks from doing business with “high risk” for fraud industries.

Craig, who has been in business more than two decades and has never been accused let alone convicted of fraud, says:

“It’s a slap in the face that I’m a criminal.” “I’m a bad person because I sell a firearm…” “That’s the way I feed my family, that’s the way my son feeds his family. It’s through this business.”

“It could totally put me out of business.” “If I can’t get a loan, I can’t get inventory and I can’t get advertisements. I might as well shut my doors. And that’s what they’re trying to do—shut us down.”

Larry Keane, vice president of the National Shooting Sports Foundation, who has been tracking the Justice Department program for years, says “We’re not sure if this is necessarily Operation Choke Point or just an example of discrimination against our industry” with respect to Craig’s case.

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