Congress, over the past several years, has seemed to become an obstacle able to stop any legislation to limit the sale of guns. There is, however, a surprising way gun control could happen that would bypass Congress immediately — and considering the scale of gun violence as a public health issue, people think it's time to start thinking creatively.
Corporate social responsibility (CSR) has become an industry buzzword over the past decade or so, but it's also just a goal that some companies espouse to try to run their businesses ethically. This can mean action in many different areas — human rights, the environment, simply helping society — and including this in a business plan can often make companies more attractive, and therefore more competitive.
Now, with the gun control debate effectively stalled in the legislative arena, the suggestion has arisen that some of America's biggest companies might be able to exercise a little bit of CSR and take the fight for gun violence prevention into their own hands. And there's no industry that would be able to have as much effect in as little time as the financial sector, The New York Times pointed out.
If Congress won't act, what if the big banks, the big credit card companies, and the big credit card processors simply refused to do business with retailers that sold the most dangerous weaponry?
In the most likely scenario, the companies wouldn't approach this with the goal of ending gun sales entirely. However, they could choose certain products where their cards couldn't be used, particularly the big three targets of the gun violence prevention movement: assault weapons, high-capacity ammunition magazines, and bump stocks, the product used in Las Vegas to make semi-automatic rifles function like automatic weapons. This would mean that any store that wanted to allow its customers to pay with a credit card would have to stop selling those items, creating a huge incentive not to stock them.
There's a lot of precedent for a move like this. Businesses have recently been looking to act in areas like health care, climate change, and civil rights for the LGBTQ community, where people perceive the government to have failed, and they've achieved some big victories in this.
For example, when former Indiana Gov. Mike Pence decided to sign a bill that would have allowed discrimination against homosexual couples caused public outcry — and companies promised not to do business in the state — Pence amended the bill. There are also numerous payment services, like Apple Pay, Pay Pal, Square, and Stripe, that already do not allow their services to be used to buy firearms of any kind.
Some of the bigger financial institutions have also made previous decisions to disallow the purchase of certain items in the past as well, so there's certainly room for it to be done again. Only recently, JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, and Bank of America all decided that customers could not buy Bitcoin or any other cryptocurrency using cards of theirs — so why not add dangerous weaponry to that list?
But as with any big plan to tackle an even bigger issue, there are some potential problems with this idea. If huge retailers like Walmart didn't agree with the policy, then the financial institutions could be disinclined to continue it. The New York Times suggest that some would inevitably claim that it discriminated against gun sellers, but that case likely wouldn't stand in court, as sellers of any given item don't fall into a protected class like gender, age, or religion. And perhaps most troubling, it would mean that any of these dangerous items sold might be untraceable, as any purchase of them would have to be done in cash.
That said, though, it could definitely succeed in taking thousands of these items off the market and making them much more difficult to find. It wouldn't eliminate gun violence completely, and surely anyone wanting to acquire an assault rifle would be able to find a store somewhere. However, in a world where Congress refuses to act even with the majority of America begging them to, it might at least be a start.