An Ohio firearms retailer who was recently denied access to banking services says the federal government is continuing to “discriminate against” his industry.
“I definitely think the government is discriminating against our industry,” William Evans, president and CEO of American Tactical Concepts in Wadsworth, Ohio, told The Daily Signal. “It’s a little too widespread.”
Evans, who has also served as an emergency medical technician for 13 years, said since President Barack Obama took office, he’s noticed a trend of more firearms retailers being denied banking services.
Earlier this month, while trying to obtain a line of credit from Direct Capital so that he could purchase new machinery to manufacture receivers from scratch, Evans said the online application required him to provide information about his business, a “full service AR shop.”
Forty-eight hours later, Evans said, “I got a notice that they would not lend to us due to industry.”
Evans provided The Daily Signal a copy of Direct Capital’s response.
“[W]e received your application for equipment financing but unfortunately it was not approved due to industry,” Christopher Smith, a finance manager at Direct Capital, wrote to Evans.
Instead, Smith said there’s a “possibility” they could provide Evans “working capital,” which, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration, is the difference between current assets and current liabilities.
According to its website, Direct Capital provides “small and mid-sized businesses with fast and easy access to the capital they need to grow and prosper.” The company is a division of CIT Bank, which is overseen by federal banking regulators at the Office of Comptroller of the Currency and is a member of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC).
The Daily Signal reached out to the banks and federal regulators and did not immediately hear back.
Evans believes that the refusal is linked to Operation Choke Point, a government program designed to reduce fraud by using financial regulators to pressure banks out of doing business with “high-risk” industries.
The government has denied any targeting of firearms sellers under Operation Choke Point, which was launched in 2013 by the Justice Department, but critics believe that the program still having an effect, whether intentional or not.
“I think they’re trying to target other industries, and we’re getting caught up in the backlash,” Evans said. “They’re definitely going after porn and payday lenders, and our industry is an afterthought.”
Under Operation Choke Point, pornography and payday lenders were among industries labeled “high risk” by the FDIC, alongside firearms and ammunition sellers.
Evans said he’s “offended” that government agencies have associated firearms sellers with these industries and that the “discrimination” should be stopped.
“I would love to see banks look at our companies as what they are—as companies—instead of taking a big bias against us just for what we make,” Evans said.
Since coming under criticism for its role in Operation Choke Point, the FDIC changed its policies to require bank examiners to put in writing any recommendation or requirement for an account termination.
>>> Read More: FDIC Changes Tactics in Response to Operation Choke Point
Although he was able to secure a new line of credit with PNC Bank, Evans said that he expects the “discrimination” against firearms sellers to continue hurting small business owners like himself.
“Banks are dropping our accounts, and once you’ve been dropped, sometimes it’s hard to find other places to take you, because they’ll ask if you’ve ever been dropped, and you have to say yes,” he said.
On Thursday, a gun auctioneer who also lives in Ohio told reporters Akron-based FirstMerit Bank terminated his account because he sells firearms through online auctions. The two business owners are located less than a 30-minute drive from one another. FirstMerit Bank is also overseen by federal banking regulators and is a member of the FDIC.