- - Monday, May 7, 2018

When Bank of America announced it would no longer finance manufacturers that make “firearms with military characteristics for non-law enforcement, non-military use,” it was diverting us from real solutions.

Across American history the U.S. military has used, and in many cases still uses, every type of firearm now used by private American citizens. This includes bolt-action rifles, pump-action shotguns and semiautomatic designs.

The semiautomatic rifle designs Bank of America is specifically referring to have been made for and sold to civilians for more than a half century. Colt began selling the semiautomatic AR-15 to civilians in 1963, the same year it started selling the M16 to the U.S. military.

The semiautomatic design isn’t even a 20th century technology. It dates back to the late 19th century. In the very early 20th century Remington Arms, Winchester and many other manufacturers were selling semiautomatic rifles to Americans.

Semiautomatic rifles and shotguns have been popular for hunting and target shooting ever since. Semiautomatic designs are commonly owned — they’re actually the most popular firearm type sold — and are therefore protected by the Second Amendment, according to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Meanwhile, the U.S. military and our law enforcement authorities have benefited greatly from gun designs and enhancements developed by private U.S. manufacturers for the robust American consumer market. This includes new gun designs, trigger systems, gun-sight technology and much more.

These semiautomatic rifle designs aren’t even used in crimes very often. The FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting, year after year, shows that rifles of all types are used in less that 3 percent of murders. The FBI doesn’t sustain records of these statistics to tell us what percentage of this 3 percent are from AR-15s or other controversial semiautomatic designs.

All that’s not even the most troubling part of Bank of America’s politically correct decision.

“[W]e are engaging the limited number of clients [that make these controversial firearms], to learn their plans to keep this type of firearm from being used in mass shootings,” said Bank of America Vice Chairman Anne Finucane. “In those discussions, we have indicated it is our intent that we will not finance the manufacture of this type of firearm for non-law enforcement, non-military use. We want to understand what those clients are doing to end mass shootings, and what we can do to help them.”

If they want to understand what the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), the trade association that represents firearms manufacturers, is doing to prevent mass shootings they should ask (full disclosure, I have done some contract work for the NSSF). If they do, they’ll find that since 2012 the NSSF has been lobbying for “FixNICS” legislation to bolster the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). The NSSF has had a lot of success. They have gotten a lot of states to begin giving more data to the FBI’s NICS. This prevents people who are prohibited from buying guns from doing so legally.

The NSSF, which is funded by firearms makers, also runs programs to secure gun stores, to build awareness among America’s 100 million-plus gun owners on how to safely store firearms and much more.

Given all this, it’s worth asking if Bank of America intends to treat other manufacturing sectors in this way.

Will Bank of America restrict lending to knife makers unless they show how they stop stabbings? Will Bank of America refuse to lend to car makers unless they show how they stop people from driving while intoxicated? Will Bank of America stop doing business with truck rental companies if they don’t show how they’re preventing terrorists from renting large trucks?

What about manufacturers that import products from overseas? Will Bank of America stop doing business with all of the companies that bring in products made in places that don’t adhere to America’s child-labor laws or our environmental regulations?

The real trouble though is this isn’t just a story about a financial institution making a political decision. By blaming gun manufacturers for the actions of criminals, Bank of America has become part of a diversion taking the national focus away from real solutions to a chronic problem.

There are many things that need to be done to prevent terrorists and the mentally ill from committing mass murder with firearms, vehicles or other means. Blaming gun makers — or American freedom for that matter — doesn’t get us any closer to real solutions. Instead, it foments division and wastes resources that could be spent finding solutions.

We need to work together to find and stop the few who might commit the next atrocity. Bank of America should know that much.

Frank Miniter is the co-author of “Conquer Anything: A Green Beret’s Guide to Building Your A-Team.”

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