Guns, Bank Accounts, And Regulations

Is This The New American Century?

It seems we’ve done it again, America. Another mass shooting has made the headlines. In a world where we’re the only country where this regularly happens, we’re setting records left and right for school shootings.

I don’t think this is a congratulatory moment.

Students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida were evacuated as yet another deranged gun-toting maniac shot up the school on Wednesday, February 14th, 2018. According to the incident timeline, he began shooting into various classrooms at 2:21 P.M. and was taken into custody exactly eighty minutes later.

So, not a very Happy Valentine’s Day.

As of this writing, 17 people have been pronounced dead, mostly students. I’m hoping that number doesn’t change anytime soon.

Of course, you already know the script for what happens next. Politicians tweet their prayers and condolences, gun control advocates demand that politicians stop praying and start enacting tougher laws to ban certain gun accessories, gun rights enthusiasts refuse to talk about guns and instead kick the can over to mental illness, and we all forget about this in a week.

At least President Trump decided to make things interesting by using the deaths of children to belittle the Democrats on two separate political issues.

But please, tell me all about Trump's "historic accomplishments". [Photo courtesy of]
But please, tell me all about Trump’s “historic accomplishments”. [Photo courtesy of]

But this is nothing new for us. And it all comes down our complete inability to decide what to do about guns.

And guns are a very complex and sensitive issue. Neither side is completely right or wrong. I don’t think banning AR-15s will solve anything, nor do I think that a world full of “good guys with a gun” will be a world worth living in or even one without senseless gun violence. Unlike the rest of the world where guns are just murder machines, they are so ingrained into American culture that you can’t simply ban or remove them.

Personally, I don’t know what should be done. I honestly tend to lean towards being pro-Second Amendment and pro-gun rights, but that doesn’t mean a support of complete gun deregulation. I’m not exactly an NRA lobbyist.

And that’s the point of this article. An article about gun violence and gun control being published on a retail banking blog. I want to provide some perspective to the 49% of Americans that still don’t support more gun legislation. I want to provide some perspective to those who actually buy into the idea from the NRA that gun control will solve absolutely nothing. And I want to that perspective to come from someone who works in a very highly regulated industry and who generally finds himself on the “gun rights” side of the gun control vs gun rights debate (when we actually have one).

The Hypocrisy Of Politicians And Regulations

What I find amazing is that, right after a mass shooting, Republicans and NRA extremists are completely unwilling to even talk about gun control or any solutions to keep guns out of the hands of deranged white supremacists.

We are always told that now is not the time to talk about gun control. The politicians apparently have to go grieve over the deaths of people they don’t know, don’t care about, and exploit in order to keep their parties in power.

After the Las Vegas shooting, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee-Sandeers bent over backwards to justify to reporters that the day after a shooting was a time for mourning rather than discussing what could be done to prevent the next one. Which is bulls*** because if the shooter had been a Mexican immigrant, Trump would have been on camera hours later screaming about how we need to build The Wall.

And this happens after every. Single. Shooting.

It’s not the fact that Congress doesn’t pop out the next day and introduce a hundred new bans and regulations. Again, I’m not convinced that all the bans and regulations gun control advocates ask for will do anything to curb gun violence at the same rate that they will encroach on gun owners’ rights.

My issue is the idea that guns are somehow this one topic that cannot be discussed. This one area of our lives that cannot be regulated. That regulations aren’t allowed, and neither are discussions about regulations.

On a device designed to kill people.

Meanwhile, in banking, everything is regulated. Very, very regulated. Every word spoken, every action taken, every account opened.

Do you know what it takes to open a business account? Let’s say you started a web design firm. You’re not just doing a little graphic design in your spare time; you’re doing high end web design, coding, and creation as your full time work. It’s just you and you advertise primarily through social media and word-of-mouth because you don’t have a pipeline of clients (or income) for any sort of website or paid advertising. You also work at home because, well, you don’t really need to have an office and you prefer the flexibility and comfort that comes from working from your bedroom while not wearing pants. You just set up your corporation and you now need a business bank account to receive client funds and to keep your business-related funds separate from your personal money.

Expect to have to provide:

  • Valid State Driver’s License/Non-Driver’s ID
  • Proof of home address (utility bill or cable/Internet bill)
  • Social Security Number
  • Certificate of Incorporation
  • State Corporate Filing Receipt
  • IRS TIN/EIN Assignment Letter
  • Proof of business address (utility bill or cable/Internet bill)
  • Recent invoice showing a client was billed for services rendered, showing business name and address

Different banks have slightly different requirements, but the basics are the same no matter what. We need formation document and proof that you do business.

Mind you, many people pay an accountant or lawyer to set these things up for them. These corporate service providers will often leave out the customer’s name from the business formation documents, instead providing the service provider’s name and address as the business address. I could claim that as my business if I wanted.

Also, certain types of businesses may require further documentation. Do you own and rent out real estate properties? We need proof of ownership? Buy and sell cars? We need your dealer’s license. Provide medical/legal services? We need to see your licenses for those.

And on top of that, we have to speak to you at account opening to understand and document what your business does and how it operates. What do you sell? Where do you sell it? How do clients find you?

And that’s what we need to do to open a bank account.

If I wanted to sell investments or insurance to you, the regulations there are just as extreme. I need to be appropriately licensed. Even to sell you a fixed annuity with a guaranteed return of principal, I need to have a state insurance license. I need to have you away from the teller area, I need to have my FDIC sign turned down or covered in some way, I need to keep brochures for FDIC and non-FDIC products in separate areas of the bank (despite them all being appropriately labeled).

I can’t even put your investment paperwork in the same drawer as your banking paperwork, as if the lack of FDIC insurance were some sort of infectious disease that could spread to your checking account. I’m not making this up; if you come in to deliver to me some investment-related paperwork and I’m not there, the staff can’t just take it, put it in a folder with my name on it, and leave it in the vault for me to handle. Oh no, you’ve got to come back another day. They literally can’t touch the paperwork, like it’s got friggin’ Ebola or something.

I’m not being dramatic or facetious or anything like that. This is something we need to know for our quarterly audits.

Every Move We Make, But Not Every Shot They Take

In the financial world, Compliance is an industry all on its own.

According to the government through it’s various laws and regulations, it’s the responsibility of the banks to vet their customers and transactions to determine that illicit money isn’t being moved through the financial system, and to report it to the proper authorities when it is. If funds from illegal activity does make it through the financial system, then banks and other firms can be liable for millions of dollars.

Banks are also bound by specific marketing regulations. There are pages and pages of regulations dictating who we can send marketing distributions to, who we can’t send them to, what can be said, how they can be said, how they can be sent, and so on and so forth. I’m the one in my branch in charge of the outbound sales calls. It takes more time to vet the phone number being called than it does to talk to the customer! And the fines can be over $15,000 per infraction. “Infraction” meaning that the “This is an advertisement” disclaimer of an email in your junk folder wasn’t a big enough sized font for the regulators’ tastes.

Regulations also exist in regards to the disclosures we provide customers. They exist in regards to the types of products we sell customers. Banks are obligated by regulations to sell products that are suitable to customers’ financial situations, and even non-financial regulatory agencies like the Department of Labor will impose fiduciary regulations on bankers when they feel necessary.

I can go on and on and on. And mind you, I’m not complaining about the regulations that are put on financial institutions and their clients. At least not in this specific article. Not all regulations are created equal; some are good and some are bad. I don’t want to get into a commentary about financial regulation here. Now is not the time to talk about finance This article isn’t intended to be a commentary on the regulatory burden that the financial industry has placed on it.

My point is to point out the very hypocrisy of those in government who tell us that we can’t even have a discussion about gun regulations.

It’s not about wanting to have more gun control. I don’t uniformly agree with gun control advocates. Perhaps the answer is to have less gun regulations. I don’t know. I don’t have the answers.

But it’s infuriating to watch Trump not even mention guns, to watch Sanders dodge the issue entirely, to watch Fox News pundits shut down any discussion on the topic as insensitive to the victims and survivors. It’s hypocrisy to the highest degree.

It’s hypocrisy that the same legislatures, executive branches, and regulatory agencies that put so many regulations on your ability to open a bank account won’t even allow a discussion about regulations on your ability to purchase a deadly weapon.

And it’s hypocrisy that’s impossible to ignore when these same politicians, pundits, and bureaucrats are so quick to call for more regulation when it comes to immigration or to demand more military action overseas. After the Orlando shooting, then-candidate Trump was quick to call for a total ban on Muslim immigration.

Regardless on your political stances on anything, we can all agree that it is absolutely ridiculous and hypocritical that we can go on TV right after an Islamic terrorist attack and demand that something be done about Islam or immigration, but then after a mass shooting squelch all discussion about guns as “disrespectful” and “insensitive”.

It doesn’t matter what you think is the answer to the mass shooting problem. Maybe you think we need to ban assault weapons and high capacity magazines. Maybe you support universal background checks. Maybe we need to roll back regulations to ensure more law-abiding citizens have an easier time purchasing and owning guns. But something has to be done. To hide behind the Second Amendment and say that there can be no discussion because there can be no regulations–something that is not true, and something that is a little ridiculous coming from a government that puts a hundred regulations dictating where I can be standing when I talk about a guaranteed investment solution–is absolutely hypocritical.

And it’s a hypocrisy that is getting people killed by the thousands.

Readers–What do YOU think!? Is it hypocritical for the government to put so many regulations on the financial industry but so few on the gun industry? Or does the Second Amendment shield guns from regulation in a way that bank accounts and transactions shouldn’t expect? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!


  1. Karim2008 says

    Excellent post. The hypocrisy is insane. One of my theories is the government doesn’t want to stop these events so we’re too scared of each other to keep an eye on the real threat-the government. This fear also promotes greater tolerance of the surveillance state under the guise of safety. Timeless problem…

    • ARB says


      While it’s true that more people are killed by agents of various governments of the world than by anyone else (just due to the size and scale of government power vs individual or community power), I doubt government inaction on this issue is caused by anything other than lobbying cash and a conflict of interest. The government isn’t using the tragedy to deflect anything away from itself–the media does that for it by focusing on reality TV stars and other nonsense. Unlike the governments of old, our government isn’t threatened by an armed population when we’re so distracted and outraged by “insensitive” automobile ads and the like.

      Thanks for dropping by!

      ARB–Angry Retail Banker

  2. Karim2008 says

    Your comments on compliance were interesting. Would be curious to see your take on the HSBC money laundering scandal. The new Netflix show, “Dirty Money” had a whole episode on it and they devoted a significant focus to the rubber stamp compliance division which was looking the other way while drug money was being processed.

    • ARB says

      Karim again,

      I’ll have to read more about the scandal in-depth. And I’ll have to check out that series.

      ARB–Angry Retail Banker

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