N.C. Gun Dealer, Caught in Operation Choke Point, Finally Back in Business

Three months after a licensed North Carolina gun seller was denied access to a bank because he sells firearms, this story from dailysignal.com says his bank has reversed its policy, allowing him to create the accounts he needs to run his business.

“I’m going to be able to continue doing business,” Luke Lichterman, owner of Hunting and Defense in Tryon, told The Daily Signal.

Lichterman was one of many gun sellers who felt the effects of Operation Choke Point, launched by the DOJ in 2013 at the request of the White House, which lumps firearms dealers into so-called "high-risk industry for fraud" category like pornography. The program actually ended more than a year ago, but the NSSF has reported that gun retailers and manufacturers are still reporting what they say is discrimination.

Lichterman's ordeal began on March 11, when HomeTrust Bank in Asheville, N.C. refused to open an automatic clearing house payment service for his online gun and tactical gear store, the story says.

The story says http://dailysignal.com/2016/06/07/gun-seller-choked-off-from-bank-finally-gets-his-account/Lichterman had accounts at the bank since 2012 and that it wasn’t until a banker discovered that he sold guns that they refused to offer him the services.

An automatic clearing house payment service makes it easier—and cheaper—for business owners to transfer and send money, allowing them to complete transactions electronically, the story says.

Without it, Lichterman would be kicking up 4.5 percent of every transaction using a credit card processor.

“I would have been unable to continue doing business at credit card rates because the Internet is the most competitive marketplace on earth and a dealer will buy a gun from one guy because it’s a dollar less than another,” he said. “Being able to do these transactions and save the 4.5 percent of every transaction, you do a $1,000 transaction, you’re looking at $40.”

The story says the bank didn’t respond to the Daily Signal’s requests for a comment.

“Originally suspicious of a connection to Operation Choke Point, Lichterman asked the banker in March for another example of an industry that HomeTrust Bank wouldn’t do business with.

“His immediate response: ‘Pornography.’

“’I really had to stop from laughing,’ Lichterman recalled in an earlier interview. ‘I said, I’m not a pornographer. I deal in constitutionally protected goods.’”

Two weeks after the Daily Signal shared Lichterman's story, bankers at HomeTrust changed their mind and Lichterman was contacted via email and was offered two different payment service options. He accepted the olive branch and stayed with the bank, the story says.

“Lichterman said the bankers at HomeTrust Bank ‘didn’t admit’ denying him service because of Operation Choke Point, ‘but it looked to me like they were under the impression that Operation Choke Point was in effect,’ he said.”

“The Daily Signal sought comment from the Justice Department about the current status of Operation Choke Point. It has not yet responded, but back in April, it said the department ‘has not and will not target businesses operating within the bounds of the law.’”