Florida gun maker told to find new bank, CEO claims

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A Florida gun manufacturer is shopping for a new lender after being told by Fifth Third that its accounts would not be renewed.

Cole Leleux, the CEO of Spike’s Tactical in Apopka, Fla., also said Tuesday that a bank official also told him last week that Fifth Third intends to “quietly exit the gun industry” — a claim the Cincinnati bank has denied.

Fifth Third declined to address its relationship with Spike’s Tactical, citing privacy concerns. But a spokeswoman said in an email that while the $141 billion-asset bank is committed to “keeping firearms out of the hands of the wrong people,” it has not cut ties with gun manufacturers.

“We continue to serve firearms manufacturers and retailers, although the firearms industry does not represent a significant part of our portfolio,” the spokeswoman said in an email.

Fifth Third was the site of a mass shooting just last month, when a gunman walked into the lobby of its downtown Cincinnati headquarters and started shooting. Four people, including the shooter, died that day. One, Luis Calderon, was a finance manager in Fifth Third’s commercial bank. Two others, including Fifth Third banker Whitney Austin, were injured but survived.

Banks have increasingly come under fire for their relationships with gun manufacturers and retailers, particularly in the wake of high-profile mass shootings like those at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., and the Route 91 Harvest Festival in Las Vegas.

Several big banks, including Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase and Citigroup, have said publicly they would reduce their ties to the gun industry after those tragedies.

Spike's Tactical, a maker of AR-15s, said in a news release that it had a line of credit and other relationships with Fifth Third.

Leleux said in an interview that he was aware of the shooting at the bank's headquarters. “It’s tragic, but the answer to bad guys with a gun is the police officer who shows up with a gun,” he said.

He also said that “it’s not the end of the world” that Fifth Third is severing ties with his firm. “We’ll start a new account somewhere else, but ... we think it’s ridiculous that the Second Amendment is constantly under attack.”

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