For the past year, chief executives have often talked about the new sense of moral responsibility that corporations have to help their communities and confront social challenges even when Washington won't.
In the aftermath of the school shooting in Parkland, Fla., that killed 17 students and staff members — and at a time when Washington shows little interest in limiting the sales of assault weapons — there's a real opportunity for the business community to fill the void and prove that all that talk about moral responsibility isn't hollow.
Here's an idea.
What if the finance industry — credit card companies like Visa, Mastercard and American Express; credit card processors like First Data; and banks like JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo — were to effectively set new rules for the sales of guns in America?
Collectively, they have more leverage over the gun industry than any lawmaker. And it wouldn't be hard for them to take a stand.
"We do not believe permitting the sale of firearms on our platform is consistent with our values or in the best interests of our customers," a spokesman for Square told me.
The big financial firms don't even have to go that far.
For example, Visa, which published a 71-page paper in 2016 espousing its "corporate responsibility," could easily change its terms of service to say that it won't do business with retailers that sell assault weapons, high-capacity magazines and bump stocks, which make semiautomatic rifles fire faster. (Even the National Rifle Association has said it would support tighter restrictions on bump stocks.)
If Mastercard were to do the same, assault weapons would be eliminated from virtually every firearms store in America because otherwise the sellers would be cut off from the credit card system.
There is precedent for credit card issuers to ban the purchase of completely legal products. Just this month, JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup and Bank of America banned the use of their cards to buy Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.
To be clear: Those three banks won't let you use your credit card to buy Bitcoin, but they will happily let you use it to buy an AR-15-style semiautomatic rifle — the same kind of gun used in mass shootings in Parkland; Newtown, Conn.; San Bernardino, Calif.; Las Vegas; and Sutherland Springs, Tex.
Visa, oddly enough, is the card of choice of the N.R.A.: There is actually an N.R.A.-branded Visa card issued by First Bankcard, a division of First National Bank of Omaha. And Mastercard proudly announced last year that it was the branded card for Cabela's, an outdoor gear megastore with a seemingly limitless assault-weapon catalog.
Visa spokesmen did not reply to several emails seeking comment. A spokesman for Mastercard sent a boilerplate statement that expressed "disgust with recent events, including last week in Florida."