Last month, Steve Champion of American Gun & Pawn in Brooksville, Florida received a letter from his bank telling him that it would begin closing his account. Champion, who said he has no debt, an excellent credit score, and maintained good standings with the bank, was perplexed by the letter.
“At first I thought it must be a hoax,” he told WFLA.com
Champion made a call to SunTrust Bank hoping to clear up any misunderstandings, but a company representative immediately recognized his predicament.
“Oh, you got one of the gun letters,” Champion quoted the representative as saying.
Champion said he was told that similar letters were going out to other gun shops that SunTrust Bank was doing business with, and the reason for his account being closed was that he sold guns.
“This is an the craziest thing I have ever seen. This is how these people are coming after your guns. If they can do this to a legal business, what can they do to you?” Champion wrote on Facebook.
“When I called them they said they are closing gun stores accounts all over the country! We are a licensed and legal company! These big companies that infringe on our constitutional rights need to be held accountable!” he added.
SunTrust Bank painted a different side of the story. Company spokespeople told local reporters that the bank was only suspending the accounts of businesses like pawn shops and payday lenders, not gun stores. Since Champion’s business, like many others, doubles as a pawn shop, SunTrust spokespeople said that was the reason behind his account being closed.
“Gun dealers are part of the account closings. I called and they specifically said it was because we are a gun dealer. I have the names of everyone I spoke with,” he wrote online.
The gun store owner said that either reason for closing his account was unjustifiable. Champion stated that he planned to hold a protest in front of the Suntrust location in Brooksville later this month.
Update added 4-9-2015: SunTrust has issued a statement regarding the closure of Champion’s account. It is provided below.
Any suggestion that this is a firearms issue is inaccurate. SunTrust continues to do business with licensed firearms dealers. However, we have decided to discontinue banking relationships with pawn businesses.
SunTrust is pro-small business, and we are proud to serve more than 400,000 small business clients.
SunTrust fully supports all of the rights that Americans are granted under the Constitution, and we continue to maintain banking relationships with licensed firearms dealers.
It is consistent with long-standing industry practice to review relationships to ensure they satisfy a range of business and risk considerations. We have decided to discontinue banking relationships with three types of businesses – specifically payday lenders, pawn shops, and dedicated check-cashers – due to compliance requirements.
We remain committed to serving the needs of our communities while meeting the standards of our industry.