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Banks should be part of the debate on gun violence

If you have a deposit account, loan or investment account with one of the mainstream banks, it’s entirely possible that you’re supporting the manufacture or distribution of guns without even realizing it.

Photo of Keith Mestrich

President & CEO

Most of the big banks conduct business with firearms manufacturers and distributors: by banking them, lending to them, and managing their investments. When customers deposit money with these banks, the banks may lend it back out to firearms companies to support their operations. Or when you get a loan from one of these banks, you may be getting money that was once used to buy or manufacture a firearm. While these are only theoretical examples, they are meant to illustrate how the clients of any given bank are more closely tied together than one might think.

Of course, the main point is this: If you are as appalled as we are by the epidemic of gun violence in America, it only makes sense to refrain from banking with a financial institution that enables gun companies that contribute to gun violence in this country.

At Amalgamated, we believe banks have a responsibility to act in the best interest of society. Gun violence in America is an ongoing crisis that must be dealt with urgently and head-on, and we are committed to doing everything in our power to help address it. For many years now, we have had a policy of not lending to firearms manufacturers or sellers, and we do not maintain banking relationships with businesses involved in gun sales. Moreover, our own assets are not invested in the three publicly-traded firearms manufacturers and we offer our institutional and individual clients ways to divest their assets from investments in firearm companies.

We are taking direct action as well. We recently announced we are implementing new procedures to ensure that all commercial clients (existing and new) adhere to the Everytown for Gun Safety’s Codes of Conduct. We are the first banking organization to institute this groundbreaking policy.

What’s more, by virtue of being a manager of our clients' investments across a wide range of funds, we act as a shareholder of a broad swath of large American corporations, and we have a long history of using our position as a shareholder to lobby companies we have in the portfolio to adopt changes. Having a small position in Sturm Ruger, the publicly-owned gun manufacturer, we are using our leverage as a shareholder to call on Ruger to adopt Everytown’s Codes of Conduct, a set of commonsense proposals around background checks, enforcement and data collection and research.

To be clear, our position on this issue is not about scoring political points; rather, it is about doing the right thing. Too many innocent American lives are wasted by needless gun violence. (Just in the course of writing this blog, I have received notifications on my mobile phone about another deadly school shooting.) Banks have a surprisingly important role to play in curtailing violence and we are proud to set an example for other financial institutions to follow.

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