Chicago Mayor urges TD Bank to stop funding gunmakers

Steve Mertl
National Affairs Contributor
Daily Brew
Did Rahm Emanuel cross legal line?

A powerful ally of U.S. President Barack Obama is pressuring a Canadian-owned bank to quit lending money to a leading gunmaker.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, White House chief of staff for most of Obama's first term, wrote to the American subsidiary of TD Bank asking it cut off historic manufacturer Smith & Wesson because it doesn't back Obama Administration's gun-control push.

“TD Bank currently aids the gun manufacturing industry through a $60-million revolving line of credit with Smith & Wesson, a gun manufacturer that produces the AR-15 — an assault weapon that was used by James Holmes to kill 12 people and wound 58 in a crowded movie theatre in Aurora [Colo.],” Emanuel’s letter to TD CEO Bharat Masrani states, according to Postmedia News.

“I ask you to use your influence to push this company to find common ground with the vast majority of Americans who support a military weapons and ammunition ban and comprehensive background checks.”

[ Related: Chicago municipal pension fund to divest gun maker holdings ]

Contacted by Postmedia News, TD Bank spokeswoman Rebecca Acedeo said: "We respectfully decline to comment."

Emanuel sent a similar letter to the Bank of America requesting it cancel a $25-million letter of credit to Sturm, Ruger & Co. Inc.

Both are among the two dozen American gunmakers that produce variants of the popular AR-15 semiautomatic rifle, the civilian version of the U.S. military's M16 assault rifle.

The Obama Administration has launched a concerted gun-control push, including a ban on such guns and ammunition magazines holding more than 10 rounds, in the wake of the Dec. 14 Sandy Hook school massacre in Newtown, Conn., which killed 20 elementary school children and six educators.

Fears that the government would ban assault-style rifles has led to a surge in sales. Despite moves by some investment groups, including Chicago's municipal pension and retirement fund, to divest themselves of gun stocks, their share prices have risen.

Other cities announced this week that they're following suit and Postmedia News reported the National Conference of Democratic Mayors warned gunmakers to support the president's gun-control effort or risk being frozen out of contracts for police departments.

But gun advocates show no sign of knuckling under to the political and economic pressure.

"The president keeps saying that he respects the Second Amendment [of the U.S. Constitution enshrining the right to "keep and bear arms"] and is not trying to take guns away from Americans," said a post by Tara Dodrill on The Inquisitr. "The pressure to end pension investments and lines of credit would strictly inhibit the capability of gun companies to make products."

Gunmakers are not criminals, Dodrill asserted and trying to ban assault-style weapons is doomed to fail.

"The semi-automatic weapons and high-capacity magazines on the gun ban list already exist," she wrote. "A new law will not prevent them, or any other deadly weapon, from being used in a mass shooting.

"A ban on semi-automatic weapons would create a black market for the weapons just like currently exists for drugs."

Texas Senator Ted Cruz, a Republican, responded to Emanuel's letter by inviting gunmakers to look for financial support in his state, according to the Washington Examiner.

[ Related: Grieving Newtown father jeered by pro-gun activists ]

“[Y]our city’s longstanding policies stripping citizens of their constitutional right to keep and bear arms have, in turn, produced some of the very highest crime and murder rates in the nation,” Cruz wrote to Emanuel, according to the Examiner.

The Associated Press reported this week that Chicago has experienced its deadliest January since 2002, with 40 homicides so far despite some of the toughest local gun laws in the United States. The total for all of 212 was 500, almost as many as for all of Canada — 598 — in 2011.

In a message to the two gunmakers, Cruz said if Emanuel's "bullying campaign" with their lenders proves successful, "I am confident that there are numerous financial institutions in Texas that would be eager to earn your business."