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Arizona GOP again tries to pass anti-discrimination protections for gun dealers, manufacturers

Republican lawmakers are moving a ballot measure through the Arizona Legislature that would extend anti-discrimination protections to gun manufacturers and dealers.

Members of a House committee approved the legislation that would require banks that want to do business with the state to certify they don’t discriminate against firearm entities.

That means everything from handling a city's payroll to helping school districts sell bonds.

The proposal by Sen. Frank Carroll (R-Sun City West) follows decisions by some financial institutions across the nation to refuse to serve some elements of the firearms industry. In 2018, Citigroup said it would not do business with retailers who sell firearms to customers who have not passed background checks or who are younger than 21. That covers Citigroup issued credit cards, loans, banking services or raising capital on the borrowing market through the bank.

Those same restrictions apply to firms that sell high-capacity magazines and "bump stocks,'' a mechanical device that effectively turns a semi-automatic rifle into a machine gun. Such a device was used in 2017 to massacre 58 people at an outdoor concert in Las Vegas.

And JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon testified at a congressional committee that the investment banker doesn't do business with manufacturers of "military-style weapons for civilian use.'' There was a similar announcement in 2018 by Bank of America.

Carroll told committee members that banks have "gone into the social justice lane to make decisions about whether they like something or not.''

Wednesday's vote came over the objections of Wendy Briggs, lobbyist for the Arizona Banking Association.

She noted that state and federal laws prohibit banks from refusing to serve customers based on their race, religion, sex or other factors. Briggs said lawmakers are conflating those constitutional protections against discrimination with purely commercial decisions made by banks.

"They're not a protected class,'' she said of gun manufacturers and dealers.

Megan Kintner of the Arizona Association of Counties said having fewer banks provides fewer options for county treasurers who contract with banks to take care of certain services.

"We have seen, in Texas for example, a lot of banks withdrawing from the state,'' Kintner said, creating problems for local governments who already have a hard time getting financial services at a reasonable price.

Briggs said fewer banks bidding to lend money or handle bond sales is bound to drive up costs, "which costs the taxpayers.''

A similar bill introduced last year was vetoed by Gov. Katie Hobbs. If this measure passes the Legislature, it would instead go to voters’ ballots in November. 

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Greg Hahne started as a news intern at KJZZ in 2020 and returned as a field correspondent in 2021. He learned his love for radio by joining Arizona State University's Blaze Radio, where he worked on the production team.