Headline: Bank suddenly closes gun dealer’s accounts

The Post of Medina, OH recently reported that a local firearms dealer and auctioneer was surprised to find his bank accounts with FirstMerit to be closed recently.

From the article:

Citing “risky business practices,” FirstMerit Bank ceased its relationship with Russ Farnsworth, of Montville Township, solely because he sold guns for hunting and sport online, he said.

Farnsworth said he received a certified letter in the mail Feb. 20 letting him know. He said he plans to switch his accounts over to another bank, leaving FirstMerit after more than a decade and having 30 days since the letter was dated to do so.

“I’ve got a federal firearms license, just like any gun shop. I take guns on consignment from people all over Ohio, really,” Farnsworth said. “They get shipped out to other (licensed) dealers all across the country, which is a lot of the misunderstanding people don’t seem to get. Background checks on the buyers are done by the dealers themselves.”

The article notes that FirstMerit’s move is technically legal, thanks to the Obama administration's Operation Choke Point program implemented by the Department of Justice in 2013. The program allows banks to terminate accounts if they deem a customer’s business practices to be dangerous or unsafe.

“I had no idea. I had never really even thought about it,” Farnsworth said. “I got a letter out of the blue, didn’t get any notice prior to that. They couldn’t tell me much at the branch.”

Farnsworth said he was “pretty shaken up” by a conversation he had with employees at the bank. A FirstMerit official later called him to “clear some things up,” he said.

“It was the fact that I’m selling guns online. That’s where they considered the risk to be. I’m still not really sure what that risk is,” Farnsworth said.

In February, a bill aimed at ending Operation Choke Point was passed in the Ohio House.

When he reintroduced the bill last year, Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-MO) published excerpts of a FDIC whistleblower’s letter, which help substantiate the illegitimate ends of OCP. The individual wrote: 

"I am an employee of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC). I was proud of my job and the FDIC’s mission before Operation Choke Point. During the past two years, however, we have been told to examine banks much more harshly, if they deal with a class of customers prohibited by Choke Point."

Predictability, the White House is already threatening to veto the legislation if it reaches the president’s desk. Despite the President's threats, I'd like to see Senator Rob Portman join his colleague Sen. Marco Rubio's efforts to see that this important issue be taken up this year in the Senate.

Chad D. Baus is the Buckeye Firearms Association Secretary, BFA PAC Vice Chairman, and an NRA-certified firearms instructor. He is the editor of BuckeyeFirearms.org, which received the Outdoor Writers of Ohio 2013 Supporting Member Award for Best Website.


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