Gun retailers say the Obama administration is trying to put them out of business with regulations and investigations that bypass Congress and choke off their lines of credit, freeze their assets and prohibit online sales.

Since 2011, regulators have increased scrutiny on banks’ customers. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. in 2011 urged banks to better manage the risks of their merchant customers who employ payment processors, such as PayPal, for credit card transactions. The FDIC listed gun retailers as “high risk” along with porn stores and drug paraphernalia shops.

Meanwhile, the Justice Department has launched Operation Choke Point, a credit card fraud probe focusing on banks and payment processors. The threat of enforcement has prompted some banks to cut ties with online gun retailers, even if those companies have valid licenses and good credit histories.

“This administration has very clearly told the banking industry which customers they feel represent ‘reputational risk’ to do business with,” said Peter Weinstock, a lawyer at Hunton & Williams LLP. “So financial institutions are reacting to this extraordinary enforcement arsenal by being ultra-conservative in who they do business with: Any companies that engage in any margin of risk as defined by this administration are being dropped.”

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