Arizona House bill hits banks that refuse gun firm business

A proposal that would bar any government agency in Arizona contracting with a firm that refuses to do business with a firearms company got strong support from majority Republicans on a state House committee but tough pushback from the banking industry.

The proposal from GOP Rep. Frank Carroll of Sun City West would require companies doing business with the state or local governments to certify they won’t refuse to serve a firearms-related company.

Carroll and other GOP supporters said some banks are refusing to do business with firms involved with the firearms industry. They framed it as an issue of barring people from exercising their Second Amendment rights.

"Why would you not want to do business with a Second Amendment-related business?" Rep. Quang Nguyen, R-Prescott Valley, asked a lobbyist for the banking industry during a Feb. 16 House Judiciary Committee hearing. "I feel that it’s more political."

But bankers pushed back, calling it government overreach for lawmakers to try to force a business to deal with someone against their will and said it is not an issue in Arizona.

"This seeks to have government interfere with those private businesses and come put their finger on the scale in support of a single industry," said Jay Kaprosy, a lobbyist for the Arizona Bankers Association. "What this bill is asking you all to do is to pick winners and losers about what businesses in Arizona we’re going to favor and that’s where we have a problem with it."

Kaprosy noted that a loan officer at a bank specializing in farm banking may reject an application for a gun manufacturer because it is outside their firm’s focus, and under Carroll’s proposal they could be barred from handling government banking.

Michael Findlay, director of government relations for the firearms industry trade group the National Shooting Sports Foundation, said gun businesses have faced discrimination in banking.

"This bill is a Second Amendment bill," Findlay said. "We have members in the state of Arizona as well as all over the country that have been discriminated on access to capital, payment processors."

He noted that similar legislation has been enacted in Texas, Wyoming and Georgia.

But Kaprosy said the proposal is purely political and threatens the independence of the banking industry.

"It’s a stretch to suggest that this is a Second Amendment issue," Kaprosy said. "This is a political issue in which banks and other businesses are innocent bystanders, frankly, in a war of words and culture that is going on outside the banks."

The committee voted along party lines with no Democratic support to approve the bill, which now heads to the full House after a routine Rules Committee review.

Other firearms-related bills are making their way through the Legislature this year. Among them are two that passed House on Thursday that would loosen gun laws by allowing firearms in libraries and many other public buildings and by permitting loaded weapons to be carried in vehicles on school grounds.

Debates on two other proposals — one allowing guns on university campuses and another to let people between 18 and 20 years of age get provisional concealed weapons permits — were delayed. The Senate also has a university carry bill.

Arizona already has some of the least restrictive gun laws in the nation, allowing anyone legally allowed to own a gun to carry a firearm without a permit, making permits exceptionally easy to obtain and allowing private sales without a background check.

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