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Citi to review relationships with firearms retailers, manufacturers

Citigroup Inc. announced March 22 it will set new standards for clients or partners that sell firearms and review relationships with companies that manufacture guns.

In a press release, the company said it will require new retail sector clients or partners to not sell firearms to anyone who has not passed a background check, restrict sales of firearms to anyone under 21 years of age, and not sell bump stocks or high-capacity magazines.

Under the policy, the company will engage with current clients and transition away from any businesses that choose not to adopt Citi's standards.

The company acknowledged it has relationships with firearms manufacturers and will be starting "due diligence conversations" to understand their products and sales practices.

Citi says the policy will apply across the company, including small business, commercial and institutional clients, as well as both co-brand and private label credit card partners. The company insists the new policy is not "centered on an ideological mission" but felt the need to take action after recent acts of gun violence. On Feb. 14, a mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. killed 17 people, sparking a national conversation on the availability of firearms.

"[W]e want to do our part as a company to prevent firearms from getting into the wrong hands," said Ed Skyler, executive vice president of Citi's global public affairs. Skyler pointed to Walmart Inc., which raised its age restriction on firearms sales to 21, as an example of a company that has gone further to implement "common-sense sales practices."

Citi, the first of the largest banks to change its policy related to firearms sales, says it wants to "convene" other companies in the financial services industry to discuss these issues. JPMorgan Chase & Co. declined to comment and Bank of America Corp. did not respond to requests for comment. Bank of America reportedly had discussions with clients that manufacture assault weapons but has not articulated a policy for sales practices.

Wells Fargo & Co. spokesperson Alan Elias said the company has processes in place to make sure firearms sales are legal, but said the best avenue for further change is through the "political and legislative process."

"We are engaging our customers that legally manufacture firearms and other stakeholders on what we can do together to promote better gun safety for our communities," Elias said.

On Feb. 22, the First National Bank of Omaha dropped its Visa credit card co-branded with the National Rifle Association, citing "customer feedback" in the company's decision to cut ties with the large firearms lobbying group.