After the shooting in Parkland, Fla., Bank of America pledged that it would stop financing companies that make military-style assault weapons for civilian use. But last week, news reports surfaced that the nation’s second-largest bank is still providing critical financing to Remington Arms, the company responsible for manufacturing the Bushmaster assault-style rifle that killed 20 children and 6 adults in Sandy Hook Elementary School.
Bank of America's $43.2 million in financing will aid Remington in restructuring its debt and, ultimately, help it find its way back to stable financial footing — including the manufacture of more assault weapons.
The bank insists that it still intends to abide by its Parkland pledge in the future, claiming that its business with Remington pre-dated the Parkland shooting and that it has informed the company that it would be exiting the loan after the bankruptcy procedure. The bank also promises not to enter into future business arrangements with the company or any other that produces military-style assault weapons.
But after decades of profiting on the manufacture of assault weapons, Bank of America has an obligation to do more. Much more.
Assault weapons have killed thousands of Americans for decades, and this arrangement will allow Remington to continue pumping out firearms that are designed to kill people quickly and efficiently. Bank of America’s financing of Remington will result in more Americans dying from senseless gun violence.
Rather than weaseling out with the excuse that this deal (and who knows how many more) was already in the works, Bank of America must pull out of this agreement and deal with the consequences. The bank can use this moment to show true corporate leadership and create a template for bringing about real change in a post-Parkland world.
What it can do
Here’s what Bank of America can, and should, do to honor and expand on its Parkland pledge:
First, the bank must promise to donate any profit it earns from its financing agreement with Remington to survivor groups that help gun violence victims pay the catastrophic medical bills they face. If the bank bails Remington out from bankruptcy, the least it can do is help those who are suffering the consequences of its products.
Second, the bank must go beyond assault weapons and commit to end all business relationships with gun makers period. After all, handguns are responsible for 65 percent of firearm murders in the United States.
Third, after decades of providing financing that has allowed gun makers to pump more guns into our communities, Bank of America must help clean up its mess by partnering with gun violence prevention organizations and sponsoring voluntary gun buy-back programs all across the United States. What better way to live its values of public safety than to actively take guns off of our streets?
None of these steps will be easy for a global company with diverse business interests.
But real civic leadership is rarely devoid of challenges. In this case, however, those challenges pale in comparison to the devastation communities and gun violence survivors across the country face from the over 310 million guns in circulation.
The question remains: Will Bank of America show true leadership in helping reduce gun violence or trade more American lives for profit?