Credit card company: No more buying guns
Foundation says ban impacts weapons for citizens, military, law enforcement

Posted: January 31, 2008
1:00 a.m. Eastern

By Bob Unruh
© 2008

A major credit card company has issued a letter to a gun dealer canceling his payment processing services because of corporate concerns firearms were being sold to consumers in other states, in “a non face-to-face environment.” Now the move has raised the ire of the National Shooting Sports Foundation.

“Your anti-gun corporate policy is based on ignorance of the law applicable to the sale of firearms,” the NSSF wrote in response to the action taken by First Data Corp., which operates Citi Merchant Services.

“It is perfectly legal, in fact commonplace, for a federal firearms licensee in one state to sell a firearm to a non-licensee (consumer) from another state,” the foundation continued. “What you fail to appreciate is that the firearm is not shipped in interstate commerce directly to the consumer. Rather, as required by federal law, the firearm is shipped by the selling licensee to another federal firearms licensee in the state of residence of the consumer … The consumer acquires the firearm from that licensed dealer in a face-to-face transaction….”

The issue arose when Citi Merchant Services, in a letter signed by June Rivera-Mantilla in the “Periodic Review” department, informed CDNN Sports In. of Abilene, Texas, that the company’s bankcard processing services were cancelled, and that the banking company was withholding $75,000 as a reserve for “potential chargebacks” and it would be held for six months or longer.

Officials with CDNN declined to discuss the situation with WND, citing the “litigation” that was ongoing over the dispute. But they confirmed that the letter documenting the actions by Citi Merchant Services was accurate.

And a statement from CDNN President Charlie Crawford was posted on the NSSF site. “We were contacted recently by First Data/Citi Merchant Services by a June Rivera-Mantilla stating that we were terminated and funds were being seized for selling firearms in a non-face-to-face transaction. Although perfectly legal, we were also informed that no transactions would be processed in the future, even for non-firearms. I find this very frightening.”

“We discussed with Mr. [Charlie] Crawford said termination due to the sale of firearms in a non face-to-face environment,” the letter said. “Keep in mind that a violation of the Gun Control Act occurs when a gun offered online is sold to an individual in another State; the act prohibits selling a handgun to a resident of another state. Shipping across state lines is also banned, yet guns for sale online reach people across the country. We at Citi Merchant Service are unable to monitor or track adherence to these Gun Control laws,” the letter said.

NSSF officials posted the information on their website, prompting a request from Citi Merchant Services to take the information down.

“The posting is inaccurate,” an e-mail, signed only First Data Corp., told the foundation. “Further, while we generally do not comment on individual merchant customers, we would like to briefly address the 12/26 letter posted on your web site. Regretfully, that letter did a less than satisfactory job of expressing applicable policies.”

The e-mail said Citi Merchant Services and First Data “do process firearms transactions. Our policy restrictions address only the sale of firearms in a non face-to-face environment.” Those happen when a cardholder is “not present in front of a merchant and includes mail order and online purchases.”

“It is our policy not to service merchants that make non face-to-face sales in a number of industries, including firearms,” the e-mail said.

The foundation declined to change its information.

“Regrettably, your e-mail serves to confirm the anti-gun corporate policy of First Data and Citi Merchant Services and that the article in our publication ‘Bullet Points,’ and subsequent posting to our Website, was based on a correct and accurate understanding of that policy…,” the group said.

“Furthermore, the policy of First Data and Citi Merchant Services interferes with the receiving and shipping of inventory from and to federally licensed firearms retailers, distributors and manufacturers. This inventory supplies not only law-abiding Americans, but military and law enforcement agencies as well,” the foundation said.

In a statement to WND, Cara Taylor, communications director for Citi, continued to maintain that the NSSF postings were inaccurate.

“First Data processes more card transactions for gun sales in a face to face environment than any other credit card processor,” her statement said. “We do not have a position in the debate about gun control policy. Our credit policies center around certain transactions that occur in a non face-to-face environment and involve third parties to which First Data has no contractual relationship, and therefore pose business concerns about the risk of certain types of transactions.”

Ryan Horsley, a spokesman for Red’s Trading Post in Twin Falls, Idaho, which has its own battle running over gun sales restrictions, said it appears to be another channel through which anti-gun interests can apply pressure to gun retailers.

He told WND he’s experienced difficulties with several other card companies “that have taken that bias.”

He said he’s even heard of personal accounts at billing industry giant PayPal being cancelled because a single transaction involving a gun.

As WND has reported, Horsley’s company is in a court fight now with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives over paperwork errors that largely involved insignificant issues, such as a missing poster or a purchaser failing to provide a county of residence to accompany and street and city address.

Inspectors for the BATFE have been visiting his business regularly in search of records mistakes, he said.

WND also reported earlier how the store appears to be caught up in a new campaign for gun control, focusing on the elimination of retail outlets through technical rules infractions.

His battle is pending in federal court.

Larry Pratt of Gun Owners of America told WND that as recently as 15 or 20 years ago, there were 250,000 licensed gun dealers in the United States. The federal government confirms there are only about 108,000 now.

It was in 2000 when a series of WorldNetDaily reports exposed Citibank’s practice of denying banking services to firearms business, and the global financial giant reversed its “longstanding” policy.

A spokesman at that time said firearms businesses would be reviewed just like other businesses in determining whether account services would be provided. The reversal came after a situation in which a Las Vegas branch of Citibank closed a three-day-old checking account opened by the Nevada Pistol Academy, a local shooting club. At that time, local area branch managers told the academy’s director, Chris Lorenzo, in a letter, “Due to Citibank not maintaining accounts for businesses that deal in weapons,” the account would have to be closed.

Report: Military not ready for US attack

US Military Not Adequately Prepared for Homeland Attack, Report Says

AP News

Jan 31, 2008 11:02 EST

The U.S. military isn’t ready for a catastrophic attack on the country, and National Guard forces don’t have the equipment or training they need for the job, according to a report.

Even fewer Army National Guard units are combat-ready today than were nearly a year ago when the Commission on the National Guard and Reserves determined that 88 percent of the units were not prepared for the fight, the panel says in a new report released Thursday.

The independent commission is charged by Congress to recommend changes in law and policy concerning the Guard and Reserves.

The commission’s 400-page report concludes that the nation “does not have sufficient trained, ready forces available” to respond to a chemical, biological or nuclear weapons incident, “an appalling gap that places the nation and its citizens at greater risk.”

“Right now we don’t have the forces we need, we don’t have them trained, we don’t have the equipment,” commission Chairman Arnold Punaro said in an interview with The Associated Press. “Even though there is a lot going on in this area, we need to do a lot more. … There’s a lot of things in the pipeline, but in the world we live in — you’re either ready or you’re not.”

In response, Air Force Gen. Gene Renuart, chief of U.S. Northern command, said the Pentagon is putting together a specialized military team that would be designed to respond to such catastrophic events.

“The capability for the Defense Department to respond to a chemical, biological event exists now,” Renuart told the AP. “It, today, is not as robust as we would like because of the demand on the forces that we’ve placed across the country. … I can do it today. It would be harder on the (military) services, but I could respond.”

Over the next year, Renuart said, specific active duty, Guard and Reserve units will be trained, equipped and assigned to a three-tiered response force totaling about 4,000 troops. There would be a few hundred first responders, who would be followed by a second wave of about 1,200 troops that would include medical and logistics forces.

The third wave, with the remainder of that initial 4,000 troops, would include aircraft units, engineers, and other support forces, depending on the type of incident.

Punaro, a retired Marine Corps major general, had sharp criticism for Northern Command, saying that commanders there have made little progress developing detailed response plans for attacks against the homeland.

“NorthCom has got to get religion in this area,” said Punaro. He said the military needs to avoid “pickup game” type responses, such as the much-criticized federal reaction to Hurricane Katrina, and put in place the kind of detailed plans that exist for virtually any international crisis.

He also underscored the commission’s main finding: the Pentagon must move toward making the National Guard and Reserves an integral part of the U.S. military.

The panel, in its No. 1 recommendation, said the Defense Department must use the nation’s citizen soldiers to create an operational force that would be fully trained, equipped and ready to defend the nation, respond to crises and supplement the active duty troops in combat.

Pointing to the continued strain on the military, as it fights wars on two fronts, the panel said the U.S. has “no reasonable alternative” other than to continue to rely heavily on the reserves to supplement the active duty forces both at home and abroad.

Using reserves as a permanent, ready force, the commission argued, is a much more cost effective way to supplement the military since they are about 70 percent cheaper than active duty troops.

Asked how much it would cost to implement the panel’s recommendations, Punaro said it will take billions to fully equip the Guard. The commission is going to ask the Congressional Budget Office to do a cost analysis, he said.

In perhaps its most controversial recommendation, the panel again said that the nation’s governors should be given the authority to direct active-duty troops responding to an emergency in their states. That recommendation, when it first surfaced last year, was rebuffed by the military and quickly rejected by Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

“I believe we’re going to wear him down,” said Punaro.

Renuart, however, said he believes it is unlikely that Gates will reverse himself. Renuart said he’s talked to a number of state leaders on the matter, and most don’t want full command of active duty troops — to include their care, feeding, discipline and logistics demands. Instead, he said, governors want to know that in a crisis, their needs will be met.

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