September 24th, 2022

Credit Card Companies to Implement Special Code for Gun Sales

There is a chilling new threat to Second Amendment rights coming from the financial sector. Major credit card companies — Mastercard, Visa, and American Express — intend to implement a new purchase code identifying sales at gun stores. This new “Merchant Category Code” (MCC) identifies specific types of transactions/purchases. If shared with state or federal agencies, lists of gun-coded purchases could be used to create a de-facto national registry of gun owners. That is a disturbing prospect.

Fox Business reports: “Payment processor Visa announced … its plans to separately categorize gun shop sales, joining Mastercard and American Express, which have already said they would categorize purchases at firearm stores. Visa said it would apply the International Organization for Standardization’s new merchant code to gun shop sales. The new IOS code was announced on Friday [September 9, 2022]. Previously, gun store sales were labeled as ‘general merchandise’.”

The NRA Institute for Legislative Action explained the risk of this new code for gun sales: “If fully implemented by the various payment processors, the hope of gun-control groups for this new MCC is that it will create a registry of gun owners that they have long sought.”

“On September 9, the International Organization for Standardization (“ISO”) announced that it would create a new Merchant Category Code (“MCC”) specific to firearm and ammunition retailers. MCCs are the codes that payment processing networks (like Visa, Mastercard, and American Express) use to categorize various transactions. This is the system that allows various credit cards to offer different benefits for certain categories of purchases or to charge different fees for those same categories.” (SEE Report.)

The push for this new code originated with anti-gun groups in Democrat-controlled blue states. This action by the ISO was made at the urging of New York-based Amalgamated Bank, which bragged about being “the first banking organization to endorse Everytown for Gun Safety’s principles”. Amalgamated’s petition was supported by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), New York Mayor Eric Adams, and the anti-gun groups Giffords and Guns Down America. Fox Business reported that “New York City officials and pension funds had pushed the ISO and banks to adopt the new code on gun shop sales”.

There is a real concern that there would be broad over-reporting of sales relating to guns, because the Code would be applied to a variety of purchases.

NRA America’s First Freedom explains: “A person who uses a credit card to purchase a gun safe, a trolling motor and binoculars from a sporting goods store over several weeks or months, as well as any ammunition they might need, will make all of these purchases under the same proposed MCC used for gun sales. If anti-Second Amendment extremists get their way, these purchases could then prompt a credit-card company to report the sales to the authorities. Next, a police officer, or an agent from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), might show up at a citizen’s home to find out why they’ve been buying so much stuff from their local ‘gun store’.”

Fighting Back — 24 State Attorney Generals Oppose New Code

The Attorney Generals (AGs) of 24 states have sent letters to Credit Card company CEOs requesting elimination of the new Merchant Category Code (MCC) for gun stores being implemented by Visa, Mastercard, and American Express. These AGs of 24 states stated their intent to “marshal the full scope of our lawful authority” to block the use of the new Code to be applied to gun and gun-related sales.

The AGs sent a letter last week to the CEOs of American Express, Mastercard, and Visa. The AGs explained that the Code could be misused and lead to a de facto gun registry: “Creating and tracking this data only matters if your institutions are considering using that information to take further, harmful action—like infringing upon consumer privacy, inhibiting constitutionally protected purchases by selectively restricting the use of your payment systems, or otherwise withholding your financial services from targeted ‘disfavored’ merchants.” READ MORE.

The AGs added that the Code would not be able to distinguish between actual firearms sales vs. hunting/outdoor accessories, leading to problems for consumers: “This categorization would not recognize the difference, for example, between the purchase of a gun safe and a firearm. Nor would it capture firearm purchases made at department stores, resulting in arbitrarily disparate treatment of ‘gun store’ merchants and consumers.”

Along with the letters set to Credit Card companies, Florida’s Chief Financial Officer, Jimmy Patronis, has issued a statement saying that the use of a special gun code by Credit Card companies threatens the Second Amendment. Accordingly, he says the state of Florida would oppose this:

“If we come to the legislative session and companies like Visa, Mastercard and American Express are generating these reports to create a chilling effect against the purchase of firearms, then I’ll work with the Legislature to pass a law penalizing businesses who are targeting the right to bear arms.” READ MORE.

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