The Great American Gun Debate: Manufacturers

Manufacturers

Oh, The Great American Gun Debate—spawning every few years in the wake of national tragedy, unfurling our tightly wound emotions from the cold storage of our ignorance.  The keystones of the current incarnation are the tragedies in Connecticut and Oregon. And the emotions, never in short supply, come from the obvious: the Assembly of Connecticut; a slowly escalating war of resentment between the executive branch and the NRA[1]; Gabrielle Giffords, the congresswoman and gun tragedy survivor; and many many others. Whether pro gun control or pro gun rights, the rhetorical formula is identical—dust off the position you had during the previous GAGD cycle, dig your heels in, and shout it louder.

The firearm manufacturing industry has seen two large and opposite forces in recent weeks. The largest negative force has been in the stock market. Cerberus Capital Management put Bushmaster Firearms International on sale immediately after the Sandyhook tragedy, and many state pension funds are questioning whether to invest in any manufacturers at all. However, both gun and accessory manufacturers and retailers have seen a huge boom in business as many people attempt to purchase weapons they believe will soon be banned.

As lines are drawn, second amendment advocates are both rallying behind pro gun businesses while boycotting any company they feel disapproves of firearms. But what happens when one company takes advantage of this sentiment and begins to manufacture stories to increase media exposure and boost sales?

 The Smell Test

On December 29, American Spirit Arms owner, Joe Sirochman, posted an open letter to Facebook[2] about an alleged experience with Bank of America. (Complete message posted because of the author’s creative writing style. All punctuation, emphasis, and capitalizations are his. Cliff’s Notes below.)

All,
My name is Joe Sirochman owner of American Spirit Arms and I wanted to share my recent experience with Bank of America .(which we have been doing business with for over 10 years)…. Everyone is familiar with the latest increase in guns sales , dealers selling out of inventory , Manufacturers back logged for months , large revenue all generated in the last two weeks …. American Spirit Arms is no exception to the overwhelming demand . What we have experienced is that our web site orders have jumped 500 % causing our web site E commerce processing larger Deposits to BANK OF AMERICA ..Well, this through up a huge RED Flag with Bank of America . So they decided to hold the deposits for further review , meaning that the orders/payments that were coming in through the web ,( being paid by the customer and that were shipped out by American Spirit Arms ),the BANK was keeping (UNDER REVIEW )..as you could imagine this made me furious…After countless hours on the phone with BANK OF AMERICA I finally got a Manager in the right department that told me the reason that the deposits were on hold for FURTHER REVIEW …HER EXACT WORDS WERE …
..” WE BELIEVE YOU SHOULD NOT BE SELLING GUNS and PARTS ON THE INTERNET “
…I flipped the F**k Out and told them that they have no right to make up their own new rules and regs..that we are a firearms Manufacturer with all the proper licensing FFL (Federal Firearm license ), SOT and that we follow all Federal and All
States’ rules and regulations on shipping Firearms and parts ..and that we are also Audited by ATF and Homeland
Security on a regular basis … She said that she understands that but that the deposits will be released After they have a
Chance to review and clear them …I told her that This was unacceptable and the those deposits (that were a week old by now ) needed to be released ASAP, that we are a small business and rely on the revenue to run and stay operational.
After that being said another Manager got involved and released one of the deposits (to help out )… So far to date after
Two weeks of sales only 1/3 of collected internet sales have been released ..I am still pissed and looking for another
Bank and options …
I just thought the public should know ..
I will keep everyone posted on new developments ..
Sincerely
Joseph P Sirochman

Here is a summary of the facts-according-to-Joe in chronological order:

  1. American Spirit Arms experiences a sudden five-fold increase in internet sales.
  2. Bank of America flags this increase and holds deposits for further review.
  3. Joe begins shipping items before corresponding deposits were cleared.
  4. Joe spends “countless” hours on the phone finding a manager in the “right” department.
  5. The manager tells him that she believes American Spirit Arms should not be selling guns and parts on the internet.
  6. The manager tells him that the deposits will be released after they are cleared.
  7. Joe is now looking for another bank to take his future deposits.
  8. Joe thinks “the public should know.”
I suspect that if this story weren’t planted in the rich topsoil of the GAGD, or had Joe Sirochman been the owner of “American Silly Antiques,” this open letter wouldn’t have been re-posted to over four dozen  message boards and websites within the week, nor generated hundreds of anti Bank of America comments in which people claimed to have switched banks as a result of the ordeal.

And this would be an infuriating story indeed. If it were true. You see, in the times of the Great American Gun Debate, a tale like this is beyond inquiry. It’s David v. Goliath. It’s The Second Amendment v. The Banksters. It’s “you” v. “them.”[3]

Joe Sirochman, a business owner, knows his audience: people who like guns and hate the big banks. He knows that other firearms manufacturers have benefited in the past by making similar claims against Bank of America. And most importantly, he knows that his audience has no reason to question his version of events. As a result, the only person who cared to follow up on the authenticity of this story was a poster who goes by “Velvet Hammer” at the pro gun site IronicSurrealism. Unfortunately the extent of Hammer’s investigative talent amounts to emailing Joe, “Is this story true?” To which he replied, “Very true.”[4]

However, BofA tells a different story:

Bank of America does not have a policy that prohibits us from banking clients in [the gun] industry. In fact, we have numerous, longstanding customers in the industry. We are also extremely proud of our support of the US military and reject any assertion to the contrary. We count as clients many companies that provide for our nation’s defense. We employ thousands of veterans, Guardsmen, and Reservists, and plan to increase our hiring this year.

The day Sirochman posted his letter on the American Spirit Arms Facebook page, I openly questioned his intentions and asked whether there were any truth to these events. Within minutes he had deleted my questions and banned me from making future posts on the page. For someone thinks “the public should know,” he definitely doesn’t think the public should question him. Clearly Joe’s version of events doesn’t pass the smell test. And I suspect that Joe Sirochman and ASA have manufactured more here than just firearms.

 Déjà vu

As I searched for proof of these questionable allegations, commenters often told me that  I should believe Joe’s story because Bank of America has a “history” of doing this to firearms manufacturers.[5] 

The other company in question is McMillan Group International, a firearms and accessories manufacturer which made similar allegations back in April 2012:

Today Mr. Ray Fox, Senior Vice President, Market Manager, Business Banking, Global Commercial Banking [of Bank of America] came to my office. He scheduled the meeting as an ‘account analysis’ meeting in order to evaluate the two lines of credit we have with them. He spent 5 minutes talking about how McMillan has changed in the last 5 years and have become more of a firearms manufacturer than a supplier of accessories.

At this point I interrupted him and asked, ‘Can I [possibly] save you some time so that you don’t waste your breath? What you are going to tell me is that because we are in the firearms manufacturing business you no longer what my business.’

‘That is correct’ he [said].

I replied ‘That is okay, we will move our accounts as soon as possible. We can find a 2nd Amendment friendly bank that will be glad to have our business. You won’t mind if I tell the NRA, SCI and everyone one I know that BofA is not firearms industry friendly?’

‘You have to do what you must’ he said.

‘So you are telling me this is a politically motivated decision, is that right?’

Mr Fox confirmed that it was. At which point I told him that the meeting was over and there was nothing let for him to say.

Much like the ASA tale, this one grew quickly, receiving coverage on Fox News and Glenn Beck.[6] Despite McMillan never producing a shred of evidence other than its discontinued business relationship, the rumor remained planted and continued to grow prompting Bank of America to post a public denial of McMillan’s claims, noting especially that “the bank was recently involved in a $250 million deal with Freedom Group, a guns and ammunition maker.” Veteran internet sleuths, Barbara and David Mikkelson of Snopes, also covered the McMillan story in April and turned up nothing in support of the manufacturer.

An interestingly silent player throughout McMillan-gate was the NRA—one of the organizations listed by Kelly McMillan in his threat to expose BofA. Fox News reported that an NRA official said, “the group is aware of the situation involving McMillian but ‘is waiting to get all of the details’ before commenting.” And that was the last comment the NRA made on the matter. I don’t think it would be a stretch to assume that the NRA did eventually get all of the details, and they didn’t support McMillan.[7]

Mouth to Mouth

Last week, Sirochman went on Fox News’ America Live with Megyn Kelly to repeat his story. This typical everyman-takes-on segment would have been unobtrusive, but there was a subtle exchange between Sirochman and Kelly beginning at 3:06.

Kelly: When she said to you, “we believe you should not be selling guns and parts on the internet,” did you take that as “we believe its unlawful” to do that or “we believe morally you’re doing the wrong thing.”

Sirochman: I think that they were coming up with their own agenda, and trying to slow down our gun sales. They also mentioned that they were afraid that regulations on gun laws were going to change and that they would be left holding the bag because this is money that customers already paid with their credit card and that the bank already had and parts that we already shipped out. So they were afraid that the laws would change and all that money would have to be given back.

Kelly: Yeah no law that they’re looking at now would be retroactive, would effect the gun sales that are happening right now.

Sirochman’s theory simply does not make sense.[8] Obviously Megyn Kelly wasn’t about to publicly shame her everyman, so in the same breath she switched subjects. But the next topic was BofA’s response which said that they perform these type of checks routinely, regardless of industry, and that the American Spirit Arms case is not an isolated one.

Rejection

Why then, does Sirochman so vehemently stand behind his version of events? Perhaps he is actively taking advantage of the boost in pro gun sentiment to increase media exposure for his brand.[9] I think it’s also possible that the anti-gun tale was invented out of a defense mechanism to help Sirochman explain things that he does not understand (i.e. how banks operate). Regardless, nothing suggests that the American Spirit Arms story is true. And it would be intellectually dishonest to believe it.

P.S.  Bank of America has been pulling credit lines on a number of small-businesses in several different industries. One of them was, indeed, an antique store.

Footnotes    (↵ returns to text)

  1. Quelle surprise! 
  2. among a few dozen other places
  3. As a personal aside, my family was “you” for about 8 years. We owned a small brick-and-mortar business and used Bank of America for our deposits and credit line. I’ve experienced the routine frustration small business owners go through when every day things suddenly become not-so-routine. And I have, once or twice, “flipped the F**k Out.”
  4. Highlighting this type of lunacy will be a recurring theme on this blog
  5. Some of these commenters also have interesting corollary points about immigrants.
  6. Quelle surprise!
  7. For an organization which has no problem calling for armed guards in every school, or a national database of the mentally ill, their silence on this issue seems very telling.
  8. Dare I point out the irony that a gun manufacturer isn’t current on potential laws that would effect his business?
  9. In which case, mission accomplished.
  • Thank you for posting this. As someone who works in banking, it’s very frustrating to watch my friends swallow these lies hook, line, and sinker. Logical thinking goes out the window when it comes to the gun debate.