Democratic presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke on Thursday called on big banks and other financial institutions to cut off business with gun companies in an effort to bankrupt them.
"Credit cards have enabled many of America's mass shootings in the last decade—and with Washington unwilling to act, they need to cut off the sales of weapons of war today," O'Rourke tweeted. "Banks and credit card companies must: 1. Refuse to take part in the sale of assault weapons. 2. Stop processing transactions for gun sales online & at gun shows without background checks. 3. Stop doing business with gun & ammo manufacturers who produce or sell assault weapons."
Credit cards have enabled many of America’s mass shootings in the last decade—and with Washington unwilling to act, they need to cut off the sales of weapons of war today. https://t.co/yqLHMF0EWD
— Beto O'Rourke (@BetoORourke) September 12, 2019
O'Rourke did not define "assault weapons," but the varying definitions between the handful of states that have implemented bans are broad enough that most gun companies likely produce at least one firearm that the former Texas representative would consider an "assault weapon." This means O'Rourke is calling on the financial industry to effectively boycott the entire gun industry as it exists now.
"If enough of us make our voices heard now, we will force banks and credit card companies to act," he further tweeted.
O'Rourke's campaign did not immediately respond to questions about whether the financial industry should stop financing the sale of products used in other crimes, like knives or the alcohol and cars used by drunk drivers.
His call follows an effort by gun control activists to pressure large corporations to advocate for gun control. The financial industry has borne the brunt of this pressure and some big banks have agreed to change their business relationships with gun companies.
Citibank said last year it wouldn't do business with any company that sells certain firearms or that sells guns to anyone under 21. Bank of America implemented a similar policy. Wells Fargo, on the other hand, said it would not cut off gun companies' access to banking.
Despite some success by gun control activists in getting large corporations and big banks to publicly support gun control, financial institutions have not yet decided to limit their customers' ability to purchase legal products with their credit cards, as O'Rourke has called for.
Republicans in Congress have warned the financial industry not to discriminate against gun companies. Sens. Kevin Cramer (R., N.D.) and John Kennedy (R., La.) introduced S821, the Freedom Financing Act, which would prevent big banks from denying business to the gun industry.
"Banks serve customers who are geographically and politically diverse, and it is wrong to use essential banking services as a way to choke off such services to lawful, creditworthy businesses," Senate Banking Committee chairman Mike Crapo (R., Idaho) said earlier this year. "Large banks, which receive significant forms of government support and benefits, should continue to provide credit and services to customers and companies that comply with federal and state law and should not seek to replace legislators and policymakers. Business lending decisions should be based on creditworthiness, rather than politics or political pressure."
Still, Beto said if gun control activists are unable to pass their agenda through Congress they should ask large corporations to implement it instead.
"If this Congress and this president won't act, the least the financial industry could do is stop profiting off of sales of these weapons," O'Rourke told ABC News. "If enough of us speak out, they'll consider it."