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Chicago Mayor targets TD over services to Smith & Wesson

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel

Charles Dharapak/AP

Toronto-Dominion Bank is facing criticism from Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel over the bank's dealings with a major gun manufacturer, amid the debate over reforming firearms laws in the United States.

In a letter sent to the head of TD's U.S. operations this week, the Chicago Mayor urged the bank to stop providing financial services to Smith & Wesson Holding Corp. until the gun maker co-operates on gun reforms. TD provides a $60-million (U.S.) line of credit to Smith & Wesson, according to Mr. Emanuel's office.

A similar letter was sent to Bank of America Corp. chief executive officer Brian Moynihan, whose financial institution provides a $25-million line of credit to firearms-maker Sturm Ruger & Co. Inc. In particular, the letter asks the banks to stop dealing with the two gun companies until they embrace criminal background checks on all gun sales, support a ban on military-style assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, and support the push for gun store owners to crack down on firearms traffickers.

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"It's time for the financial industry to join the fight against assault weapons and military-style magazines, and support common-sense reforms, including requiring criminal background checks on all gun sales," Mr. Emanuel said in a statement. "Doing business with gun manufacturers might benefit the banks' bottom line, but they put our police officers, our children, and our communities at risk."

A spokesman for TD in Canada, and a spokeswoman for TD Bank in the U.S., would not comment on the letter sent to the bank. Bank of America has also refused to comment in the U.S.

It's unclear whether the letter will have an impact. Financial institutions are often urged by various groups to stop providing financial service to companies that have been accused of environment harm or other wrongdoing. However, the public appeals are usually met with mixed success.

Mr. Emanuel, the former White House chief of staff to President Barack Obama, was named mayor of the third-largest city in the U.S. in May, 2011. He has started a campaign to sell off investments in gun manufacturers, and has asked city leaders to "divest from companies that manufacture or sell assault weapons."

As part of this push, Mr. Emanuel has ordered the five pension funds for Chicago civic employees to conduct a portfolio audit, to determine whether they hold shares or bonds in gun makers, and will order them sold. One of those pensions, the Chicago Municipal Employees Annuity and Benefit Fund, voted this week to sell off more than $1-million worth of equity it held in three companies that manufacture assault weapons, including Freedom Group, Sturm Ruger, and Smith & Wesson. City councils in Los Angeles and Philadelphia have taken similar steps in recent weeks.

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