Some will remember when I exposed Bank of America (around 15 years ago) for their blatant discrimination against legal firearms companies . At that time, it was Bank of America's corporate policy to deny legal gun businesses the same services that were aggressively marketed to other businesses - such as credit card processing services.
I started my media blitz with e-mail, but I noticed that people would forward my e-mail with comments, and then those comments would be included when the next person forwarded the e-mail with more comments, and eventually the document was no longer mine.
When media representatives would call me to fact check (for those old-school professionals who still bothered with such things), I was shocked at what was going out under my name. Some jackass was even pushing it under "BofA wants to kill old ladies". Anyway, that's why I went from e-mail to a web page. I reported my experiences on several radio programs, as well, including the G. Gordon Liddy show.
What I did not know at the time, was that the US Department of Justice was behind it. At that time it would have been Republican Bush Jr. and AG Gonzales (the same Republican AG who "reinterpretted" the AW ban to prevent replacement barrels and receivers from coming into the country). Which brings up an interesting point - it's been DOJ policy over both Bush's and Obumbler's presidency - so who's really dictating DOJ policy?
This morning I get a call from one of my customers referring me to this news report. It appears that 15 years after I reported on this, it's become relevant to the national media. So I've dragged up the documentation made way back then, both to confirm the validity of Fox's story, but also to inquire why it took them 15 years to report it?
I was dissatisfied with the high discount rate of my current credit card processing company and discussed it with an officer of Bank of America Arizona, at the Desert Sky Branch. I have a good relationship with several of the officers and met with Robin, the new branch manager to apply for merchant services. After two weeks with no answer, I met with Robin again and she said she's check up on it. After two more weeks with no response, on Friday, April 27, I met with Robin again.
She informed me that they said they had called and left a message on my answering machine ["they" had not] and that "Bank of America does not provide merchant services for the gun industry."
Since the decision was above her head, I saw no value in huffing and puffing at her branch, but did inform her that I was dissatisfied with the answer and was going to pursue the issue. The meeting generated the following e-mail which I sent to my political action list and some friends around the country.
Was it because I was a credit risk? No, I have a 5+ year excellent track record with my current processing company, and outstanding credit.
Was it because I'm a racial minority? No, I'm not - and its illegal to discriminate on basis of race.
Was it because I'm of an obscure religious cult? No, I'm not - and it is illegal to discriminate on the basis of religion.
Was it because my sexual preference? No - and it is illegal to discriminate on the basis of sexual preference.
Was it because I'm female? No, I'm not - and it is illegal to discriminate on the basis of sex.
It was because I'm a gunsmith. A professional in a centuries old legal craft.
I'm also a Libertarian and believe that any business should (current Civil Rights Laws notwithstanding) be able to do business or NOT do business with whomever they please and for whatever reason or no reason. However I'm also a free-market capitalist and think this information may be of interest to others in the gun industry when they consider which financial institution deserves their patronage. I am actively seeking a Phoenix financial institution that does not spit on our constitution, and our freedom, by denying services to the vary people who secure their rights.
Please forward this information as you deem appropriate and thank you for your time.
T. Mark "gunplumber" Graham
Arizona Response Systems
Products and Services for the Armed Professional
(old address deleted)
Update. BofA caught wind of my e-mail campaign and issued a press release denying the policy and that I'd ever applied for anything. At the time I was dating a court reporter, and she transcribed the below recorded conversation - demonstrating that BofA not only had such a policy, but blatantly lied about it.
I have made several more calls attempting to confirm this policy. I have a copy of a Bank of America document titled "Merchant Services Account Qualification." It identifies certain types of businesses, that due to their statistically higher "risks of chargeback activity and loss potential" are ineligible for BofA merchant services accounts. Some examples are adult entertainment, escort/dating services, multi-level marketing, gambling/lotteries, collection agencies, bail and bond payment agencies, and several others. Gun businesses are NOT listed, which makes sense as the gun owners are statistically more affluent and educated than the average American.
My calls on Monday, April 30, led me through the BofA Small Market Acquisition Department and California (!) Merchant Services to Daniel Schulman, Commercial Services Executive Sales Representative for Arizona. A supervisor at Merchant services informed me that Daniel was the one assigned to my application (I later learned that BofA calls this preliminary application a referral and the follow-up document the "application") and the one who rejected it. The following is a transcript of our conversation.
Please forward a link to this page as you deem fit. Please refrain from selective quotations, as I have already had highly edited versions of my original e-mail come back to me, and I want to make sure that there is a single source of the most up-to-date and accurate information.
I'd like to find some way to tally the effect this BofA policy decision is going to have on Bank of America, both financially and on public relations.
Should you decide to close an account with BofA, or cancel a credit card, please send me an e-mail (click on mail below) with the account number (only AFTER its closed) or any other anecdotal information. I will consolidate this information and make it available to BofA. Perhaps the loss of a few hundred million dollars in business will convince BofA that their new policy is not only unfair, but a very poor business decision. Citibank learned the hard way last year.
I received a call at 10 AM this morning (5-3-01) , from Loraine Stinmel at Bank of America. She informed me that BofA is now drafting a new policy letter to the effect of
Who was responsible for the definitive statement "Bank of America does not offer merchant services to the gun industry," that Daniel (just following guidance from his superiors) used as a basis for refusing my application? BofA isn't saying. Loraine could only say "If we did this in the past, why? It doesn't make sense. . . We are not quite sure why this policy was distributed."
Whether it was an official national change to the Merchant Services Policy, as BofA told me, or an unwritten national corporate policy, or a BofA Arizona regional policy, or the individual prejudice of someone relatively high up in the BofA Arizona hierarchy, we may never know.
I do know is that this a great victory for gun owners!
Bank of America will not discriminate against the gun industry (either because its wrong, or because it hurts them financially - you decide).
Other businesses will take heed of the incredible influence of gun owners as a consumer block.
Gun owners got to see how fast their network of like-minded Americans can force change in even a huge corporation like BofA.
I have learned an important lessons that may be of value to other activists. Once I sent the first e-mail, it gained a life of its own - and I could not call it back. Passionate gun owners passed the message on to their networks with their own editorial comments.
When further spread, the line between my original statements and the comments of people forwarding it became blurred. Some would only cut and paste what they considered the most important parts of my original message. Quickly, hundreds of versions of my message were out there. SINCE WE ARE THE GOOD GUYS - its absolutely imperative that activist notifications be accurate beyond reproach. If the anti-freedom pundits can find one minor technical error, they can capitalize on it and shed doubt on the accuracy of the entire message.
While in my specific issue, I have not seen any messages coming back to me with bad information, I quickly realized the potential for problems. Thus this page of my website. I encourage others with activist issues to have a single, constantly-updated source that people can refer to both to verify that its not an internet hoax, and to obtain the most up-to-date information. Insure that a link to that webpage is included in all forwarded e-mails. I consider it a testament to the integrity of the gun culture that I received so many requests for authentication before the people were willing to take action or forward the message. Thank you. Thank you all for such incredible support.
A few issues still remain unresolved. At the time of this writing, I have not received a written copy of the new policy statement. I also have not learned who was responsible for the previous policy and if it was an individual, if there will be any disciplinary action.
2015 Update. Fifteen years later it comes out that it was a US DOJ policy - that federal regulators coerced banks (through threat of increased compliance inspections) into adopting such illegal civil rights violations as a back-door means of bankrupting the gun industry. Thank you Fox News - you're 15 years late, but that's better late than never. And kudos for establishing the link with DOJ across both Republican and Democrat administrations.