Citibank’s New Gun Ban is Illegal in Several States

Citibank made big news yesterday announcing that new clients would have to place restrictions on gun sales as a condition of doing business with the bank.

Citibank announced Thursday that it will start requiring clients to place some restrictions on gun sales, including banning the sale of firearms to anyone under the age of 21.

The bank will also require retail clients to only sell guns to individuals who have passed a background check and to not sell bump stocks or high-capacity magazines.

Citi is also having conversations with its gun manufacturer clients about the terms under which they’re willing to continue doing business.

Copyright: missisya / 123RF Stock Photo

As an aisde but of potential interest to some readers and payments aficionados, “current payment systems do not allow it to see exactly what items customers are buying at the checkout aisle.”

Citi’s move may be illegal in many states. UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh explains that about a dozen states have laws against age discrimination in retail which apply to those under 21 years old, so selling guns but refusing to do so for 18 to 20 year olds is against the law in those states, and consequently pressuring a company to violate that age discrimination law is similarly illegal.

Consider, for instance, Michigan law; the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act (Mich. Comp. Laws. §§ 37.2301-.2304) bans age discrimination in retail sales, and § 37.2701 likewise provides that no person shall “[a]id, abet, incite, compel, or coerce a person to engage in a violation of this act” or “[w]illfully obstruct or prevent a person from complying with this act” or “interfere with a person in the exercise or enjoyment of … any right granted or protected by this act.” If a credit card company demands that stores illegally discriminate, then it’s inciting, compeling, and coercing violations within the meaning of the law, obstructing the stores’ complying with the law, and interfering with 18-to-20-year-olds’ enjoyment of rights granted by the law.

If a credit card company required its business partners not to sell wedding cakes to gays and lesbians, that would violate the law in those states that ban sexual orientation discrimination by such businesses — and the ban would apply not just to the cake shops, but also to the credit card company.

All Citi has actually done is say they won’t take new retail business from those selling guns to 18 to 20 year olds, high capacity magazines, and bump stocks. They aren’t walking away from existing business of those who do. This is far more symbolic than anything else, and even more so since they’ll presumably have to exempt customers in several states from the policy.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. I don’t know what Corbatt was thinking pushing his shareholder’s assets into the crosshairs on such a politically charged issue. It is also rife with hypocrisy as they defend their cash with guns, use armed guards and brinks trucks and do business with myriad corrupt governments that use guns to oppress people. But a 19 year old is going to have to take his checking account elsewhere? Ok, that’ll fix everything. Thanks Corbatt.. that’s some stellar stewardship.

  2. Personally, I generally take an expansive view of “travel” as a subject. Also, as a gun control advocate I find this article interesting and not offensive on any way — it’s a factual discussion of the law as it relates to Citibank and it’s policy change. While politics is never completely absent when talking about guns this post is primarily about legal issues and secondarily social issues.

    What it isn’t about is travel.

  3. It’s always dangerous for companies to play in politics even as donors. Some could say brave but as a shareholder I don’t appreciate it at all. It can only alienate customers and drive down my investment. It can even be used as an example of why gun control is a problem anyway. Since it’s a protected right like free speech you can put a law into place that says something like “only approved people” can buy a certain product or in this case constitutionally protected weapon. The problem is the who is going to “approve” that person. It’s like the Rick Steve’s statement that I loves. “One person’s terrorist is another person’s freedom fighter”.

    Interesting topic as related to credit cards in general. What will they limit next? Porn, liquor, cigarettes, birth control, abortion clinic payments, certain brands of products because rivals own stock in those companies?

  4. Is there a relevant parallel to rental car companies here? My understanding is that only in NY have rental car age discrimination policies been struck down by the courts.

  5. Your clickbait headline is not correct; Citibank can choose who it wants to do business with so long as it doesn’t discriminate based on certain factors (gender, age, ethnicity, etc.). “Selling guns to people younger than 21” is not a protected class of people. It may be illegal for Citibank’s clients to comply with their demands in certain states, but Citibank can stop doing business with those clients nonetheless.

  6. The business is still free to sell to 18-20 year olds. They just cannot use Citibank if they do. So if the state law requires them to do business with that age bracket, the business can choose to use a different bank or no bank and Citi is simply going to lose that sector of the market.

  7. Citi also fails to give a definition of ‘high capacity magazine’. They should have had someone who had firearm knowledge write the policy (or better yet stay out of the debate).

    12 rounds for example can require an extended magazine & is thus is considered ‘high capacity’ for a 1911 for example whereas 30 rounds is normal capacity for an akm

  8. How is it illegal? Chase doesn’t do business with online gambling & adult entertainment industries. Chase just simply closes those accounts

  9. Why are you reporting this? You might as well report on Stormy Daniels if you are struggling to find travel or points earning topics.

  10. Geez, wish Citi would stop giving conversion $$ to bloggers who just dishonest clickbait headlines and articles!!

  11. This is like redlining. Banks gravitating to their antitrust roots should not surprise us, but this new tactic means current MGMT is detached. Banks are regulated by state agencies, federal govt, and the federal reserve organization. These agencies prevent bank mgmt from harassing legal organizations or consumers.
    For instance, the FDIC, subsidized by taxpayers, has to bail banks out when they make enough bad decisions that they become insolvent. Hence constant oversight. Citi knows potential new customers will bank elsewhere and not fight. But the defiant one will open a new savings account just to harass Citi and keep them in their place. And nobody will really care.

  12. Although I applaud this decision to make it harder for youngsters to acquire guns, Citibank in general is a 1%er conglomerate. Recently, it has been very hard to do business with this bank. From closing local branches to increasing fees, this bank is not for the little people. This is not to mention closing credit card accounts without notice thereby hurting credit standing as lines of credit disappear. Chase, on the other hand, continues its march forward and in the opposite direction. Don’t get me wrong here, I hate the 5/24 as much as the next guy but the ease of doing business with Chase coupled with more branch openings (at least here in Southern California), and less fees and hurdles for the regular Joe account-holder out there make them a more consumer friendly organization.

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