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Bank of America halting business with makers of military-style guns for civilian use

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The AR-15 is the top-selling assault rifle in the U.S., despite the calls for it to be banned. Credit: USA TODAY

Bank of America will stop lending to business clients that manufacture military-style weapons for civilian use, becoming the latest U.S. financial institution to break ties with gunmakers following the mass shooting massacre at a Florida high school.

"We want to contribute in any way we can to reduce these mass shootings," Anne Finucane, vice chairman of the Charlotte, N.C.-based banking giant, said during a Bloomberg TV interview on Tuesday.

"We do have a few manufacturers of military-style firearms" as clients, said Finucane. "We're in discussions with them. We have let them know ... it's not our intention to underwrite or finance military-style weapons on a go-forward basis."

The bank does lending or underwriting business with a "handful" of gun manufacturers, Finucane said, without identifying the companies.

The gunmakers' reaction to the bank's new policy was "mixed," she said.

"There are those that I think will reduce their portfolio, and we'll work with them, and others that will choose to do something else," said Finucane.

Asked whether Bank of America would adopt a similar stance toward retailers that sell military-style weapons, Finucane said such a move would get into issues involving "civil liberties and the Second Amendment."

"That's a good public dialogue, but that's a long way off," said Finucane.

Bank of America (BAC) shares were more than 1.1% lower in Wednesday morning trading at $30.13.

Bank of America, the nation's second-largest bank by assets, started the process of cutting ties with makers of military-style weapons for average Americans after the Feb. 14 mass shooting in which 17 people were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.

The massacre has renewed nationwide calls for tighter gun control, demands that have been opposed by the National Rifle Association and other organizations citing constitutional protection for the right to bear arms.

Citigroup announced new gun-related restrictions on its business partners in March, requiring them to bar firearm sales to customers under age 21, as well as those who have not passed a background check.

The New York-based bank said it is also barring clients from selling high-capacity ammunition magazines and so-called bump stocks that enable more rapid firing.

Amalgamated Bank announced similar restrictions last week, saying it would not invest any of its own assets "in companies that manufacture or distribute firearms, weaponry or ammunition." The bank also said it would work with industry peers to seek "responsible practices" from gun manufacturers and distributors.

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