May 17, 2018 Atlanta: Republican candidates for governor Casey Cagle (from left), Hunter Hill, and Brian Kemp participate in the Atlanta Press Club Republican primary debate for governor at the GPB studios on Thursday, May 17, 2018, in Atlanta. Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com

A Georgia gun-seller’s credit issues suddenly in GOP gov race focus

A credit card processor’s role in handling a Georgia gunmaker’s financial transactions has suddenly become a hot issue in the race for governor, a sharp example of how Second Amendment rights continue to help frame the July runoff.

Both Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and Secretary of State Brian Kemp slammed Intuit, a financial firm that processes credit card payments, for “discriminating” against Honor Defense, a fast-growing gun manufacturer and retailer based in Gainesville.

The Republican candidates for governor seized on the issue after it was publicized by a gun rights publication.

The GOP outcry came after Honor Defense said Intuit disrupted some of its credit card payments, making it one of several gunsellers who claimed they were unfairly targeted by processing firms.

“It’s not an Honor Defense issue. It’s an issue for retailers around the country,” said Gary Ramey, the company’s owner. “The world still runs by credit cards. It could really debilitate our business.”

Intuit said that its policy requires customers to be present to swipe their credit cards. It said the issue isn’t new and doesn’t just involve gun retailers.

But that hasn’t stopped the Republican gubernatorial candidates from raising the political alarm.

The pushback came as Cagle and Kemp have increasingly competed over who is the most vocal supporter of the Second Amendment ahead of a July 24 runoff.

Kemp aired an ad showing him pointing a shotgun toward a young man purporting to be his daughter’s suitor, and he has also called for a sales tax holiday for guns and ammunition over the July Fourth holiday.

And Cagle sent backers a lengthy dispatch assuring them he supports “constitutional carry” — which would let gun owners conceal and carry handguns without a permit — and has run his own TV spot featuring a shotgun toting man berating a Kemp lookalike.

The victor will face Democrat Stacey Abrams, who has taken the opposite approach: She is defying decades of conventional party strategy by opposing the NRA and calling for new firearms limits.

“Using the power of the governor’s office and taxpayer money to curry favor with the gun lobby will not move our state forward,” said Abrams, who said she will be committed to growing the state’s economy “so that businesses and workers thrive in every part of the state.”

The Georgia GOP said Abrams is in “no position to lecture anyone about abuse of taxpayer dollars,” citing questions about her taxpayer-funded reimbursements. Abrams has denied any wrongdoing.

‘Social bias?’

Ramey launched Honor Defense two years ago, and it has quickly become one of the larger makers of semi-automatic pistols. The company has five employees, and every firearm is assembled by a military veteran. But he said his business suffered after a pair of decisions by back-office financial firms.

The first was from Stripe, a credit card processor, which told Ramey recently that it wouldn’t handle sales of parts, shirts and apparel made online. Stripe did not immediately respond to a request for comment to explain why.

And the second was from Intuit, which informed Ramey in March that it wouldn’t process any credit card sales for those items that were made by phone.

A company spokesman said, “This specific issue is about long-standing financial safety policies in the electronic payments industry. The policies apply to payments received by companies in industries that are regulated by federal and state law, such as sales of pharmaceuticals, tobacco sales, pet sales, alcohol sales and firearms and weapons sales.”

In an interview, Ramey said the companies may have violated a 2017 state law designed to ban financial institutions from discriminating against the firearms industry.

“It’s a concerted effort by them to impose their social bias financially,” he said. “If they don’t want to do business with us, that’s fine. We’ll get through it. We’re not a victim. But in Georgia there’s a law against that kind of discrimination.”

Both Republicans have tried to leverage the issue. Kemp on Sunday said he’ll demand legislation if elected governor that would make it harder for credit card services to restrict payments to gun retailers.

“We must fight for those who provide the weapons we need to protect our families and loved ones,” Kemp said.

Cagle, meanwhile, said Monday that after consulting with state attorneys he would pursue a three-pronged approach.

He’ll ask for legislation that bars the state government from doing business with financial firms that “discriminate in this way.” He’d use the state’s standing as a shareholder in some financial firms to push for a policy change by proxy. And he’d review taxpayer-funded incentives the companies receive.

For good measure, Cagle planned a Tuesday press conference at Honor Guard’s headquarters in Gainesville to drive home his message.

“We have to stand up and fight for what we know is right,” Cagle said. “This lawful, upstanding business deserves better.”

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