Attorney General Knudsen calls out Wells Fargo, JPMorgan Chase for ‘firearm discrimination’

By: - February 8, 2023 7:19 pm

Attorney General Austin Knudsen. (Provided by the Montana Attorney General’s Office for the Daily Montanan.)

Attorney General Austin Knudsen called out JPMorgan Chase, Citibank and Wells Fargo as banks that were engaged in discrimination against the firearm industry.

At a hearing Wednesday, Knudsen said that large financial institutions were increasingly denying services to an “extremely highly regulated industry” because they “happen to be engaged in the Second Amendment.”

“Some of those financial institutions take upon themselves to deny them access to credit, to deny them banking services, to deny them credit transaction services,” he said.

He was speaking as a proponent for House Bill 356, which would prevent the state from contracting with companies that have policies that “discriminate against firearm entities or firearm trade associations.”

Knudsen said he, Gov. Greg Gianforte’s office and the state Department of Commerce have been actively trying to recruit firearms businesses to Montana. Knudsen and Gianforte both are Republicans.

“This is another thing we can hold up and show these companies. This is how seriously you take this industry, this is how much we want this business here in Montana,” he said. “I think that’s nothing but good for us. It’s good for our economy.”

Several financial institutions, including Citigroup Inc and Bank of America, posed restrictions to banking services on businesses that sell firearms following the 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, that left 17 dead.

A similar ban was put in place in Texas last year, leaving banks like JPMorgan Chase out of the lucrative municipal bond market, according to reporting by the New York Times.

Bill sponsor Brandon Ler, R-Savage, said that contractors would have to check a box that they “discriminate against anything to do with the Second Amendment.”

“If that box is checked, that business will move to the back of the line,” he said.

However, Ler said if no other business can fulfill a potential government contract besides a business that clashes with the Second Amendment, that business can and will be awarded that contract.

The Montana Department of Administration’s Misty Ann Giles said that the state’s posture wouldn’t be to investigate upon application, but rather if the state found out about the company was in violation, the contract would be canceled. The requirement would only apply to contracts more than $100,000 with companies with at least 10 employees.

Shani Henry with Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America was the sole person in opposition to the bill.

She said the bill would interrupt the workings of the free market and pass the cost of the “legislature’s political views onto taxpayers,” forcing the state and local government to “turn down bids from contractors for reasons wholly unrelated to the contract.”

Knudsen said he lost count of the number of phone calls he received from members of the firearms industry who said they were “facing systemic discrimination” from within the financial, insurance or the credit transaction sectors.

“This is becoming quite widespread,” he said.

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Nicole Girten
Nicole Girten

Nicole Girten is a reporter for the Daily Montanan. She previously worked at the Great Falls Tribune as a government watchdog reporter. She holds a degree from Florida State University and a Master of Science from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.