Gun dealers might be breathing easier this week, now that the Department of Justice has confirmed the demise of Obama Administration’s Operation Choke Point.
That message arrived Aug. 16 in a letter from Assistant Attorney General Stephen Boyd to Republican congressmen who pressed the DOJ for clarification on OCP, now that there is a new department under the Trump Administration.
Several GOP Congress members blame the Obama-era directive for denying critical financial services to law-abiding gun dealers. Among them is Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), chairman of the House Financial Services Committee. Similar letters went to Reps. Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas), Tom Marino (R-Penn.), Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-Mo.), and Darrell Issa, (R-Calif.) got similar letters.
These congressmen on Aug. 10 sent their own letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions criticizing OCP and seeking confirmation of its demise.
“We applaud the Trump Justice Department for decisively ending Operation Choke Point,” the congressmen said Aug. 18 in a press release.
“The Obama Administration,” they added, “created this ill-advised program to suffocate legitimate businesses to which it was ideologically opposed by intimidating financial institutions into denying banking services to those businesses.”
OCP was intended to “choke” out acts of fraud by ordering the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation to pressure banks into denying financing to businesses considered “high-risk.”
Among them were, to name a few, payday loan companies, dating services, amusement game owners, and sellers of guns and ammunition.
But legitimate businesses were lumped together with the crooks and denied financing, the congressmen complained.
“Targeted industries, such as firearms dealers, were presumed guilty by the Obama Justice Department until proven innocent, and many businesses are still facing the repercussions of this misguided program,” the congressmen said.
In their Aug. 10 letter, the five Congress members shared how some of OCP’s victims attended a roundtable on June 22 to discuss their plights.
“They all had similar stories of long-standing banking relationships suddenly terminated without any evidence of heightened risk or wrongdoing,” the congressmen wrote.
They added, “One of the participants—a veteran and a former law enforcement professional—described how the bank came to him and said that the government ‘came in like a bunch of thugs’ and pressured them to stop serving his small firearms business. Without access to banking services, his business faltered.
“Another participant, a firearms manufacturer who had been in business over 40 years, described that he held accounts at over 20 financial institutions and within a short period of time all were terminated.
“Participants from other industries told of losing access to banking services as recently as April 2017. In short, the ‘de-risking’ effects of Operation Choke Point continue to reverberate.”
Writing on behalf of the DOJ, Boyd agreed the directive was unfairly punitive without due process.
“We share your view that law-abiding businesses should not be targeted simply for operating in an industry that a particular administration might disfavor,” Boyd wrote. “All of the Department’s bank investigations conducted as part of Operation Choke Point are now over, the initiative is no longer in effect, and it will not be undertaken again.”
—Bill Miller, Contributor, U.S. & Texas LawShield ® Blog