By BOB CHRISTIE, Associated Press
PHOENIX (AP) — An Arizona bill to bar government agencies from contracting with companies that refuse to do business with gun companies received strong support this week from majority Republicans on a state House committee, but drew strong criticism from the banking industry.
GOP Representative Frank Carroll’s proposal would require companies doing business with state or local governments to certify that they will not refuse to work with gun-related companies.
Carroll and other GOP supporters have said some banks refuse to do business with companies involved in the gun industry. They framed it as a matter of preventing people from exercising their Second Amendment rights.
“Why wouldn’t you want to do business with a Second Amendment-related company?” Republican Rep. Quang Nguyen questioned a banking industry lobbyist during a House Judiciary Committee hearing on Wednesday. “I feel like it’s more political.
But bankers resisted the bill, calling it government overreach for lawmakers to try to force companies to deal with other companies against their will and said lawmakers were creating a problem with a non-issue by Arizona.
“It’s meant to get the government to interfere with these private companies and come and put the finger on the scales in favor of one industry,” said Arizona Bankers Association lobbyist Jay Kaprosy. “What this bill is asking all of you to do is pick winners and losers over which Arizona companies we’re going to favor and that’s where we have a problem.”
Kaprosy said a bank loan officer specializing in agricultural banking, for example, might reject a loan application for a firearms manufacturer because it is not their business purpose and, under Carroll’s proposal, this bank could be prohibited from managing government banking services.
The legislation follows the closure of social media sites popular with extremists, including Gab and Parler, when their hosts, banks or payment processors refused to continue doing business.
Arizona’s bill stands in contrast to efforts in more liberal states to target gun manufacturers.
Last year, New York passed a law to make it easier to circumvent a federal law that grants gunsmiths immunity from prosecution.
California Governor Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, has proposed another approach targeting gun corporate bottom lines, inspired by a Texas anti-abortion law that allows private citizens to sue those who help with an abortion.
Attorneys general from 13 states and the District of Columbia have also backed a lawsuit filed by the Mexican government against gunmakers. Public pension plans in several states have come under pressure to divest stakes in gun companies.
Michael Findlay, director of government relations for the firearms industry trade group, the National Shooting Sports Foundation, said Arizona’s measure is justified because gun companies have been victims of discrimination in the banking sector.
“This bill is a Second Amendment bill,” Findlay said. “We have members in the state of Arizona as well as across the country who have experienced discrimination in access to capital, to payment processors.”
Similar legislation has been enacted in Texas, Wyoming and Georgia, he said.
But Kaprosy said the proposal is purely political and threatens the independence of the banking sector.
“It’s an overstatement to suggest this is a Second Amendment problem,” Kaprosy said. “It’s a political issue in which banks and other businesses are innocent bystanders, frankly, in a war of words and culture that’s taking place outside of the banks.”
The committee voted along party lines, 6-4, with no Democratic support. The bill is now heading to the full House after routine review by another committee.
Two other gun bills passed by the Arizona House on Thursday would relax gun laws by allowing guns in libraries and many other public buildings and permitting the transportation of weapons loaded into vehicles on school grounds.
Debates on two other proposals – one allowing guns on college campuses and the other allowing people between the ages of 18 and 20 to obtain provisional concealed weapons permits – have been delayed.
Arizona already has some of the least restrictive gun laws in the country, allowing anyone legally entitled to own a firearm to carry a firearm without a license, making concealed carry permits exceptionally easy to obtain. and allowing the sale of private firearms without background checks.
Associated Press writer Jonathan J. Cooper in Phoenix contributed to this report.
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