Visa, American Express, Mastercard will Track Gun Sales with New Merchant Code

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A coalition of AGs across the nation supports three of the world’s largest credit card companies in adopting a new merchant code for gun sales to help law enforcement monitor gun violence.

New Jersey’s Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin last week led a coalition of eleven (11) Attorney Generals from across the nation in supporting the adoption of a new merchant category code for the sale of firearms and ammunition.

The coalition of Attorney Generals, in a letter to chief executives at three of the largest credit card companies in the world – Visa, American Express, and Mastercard – supported the company’s adoption of new merchant codes, which the AGs describe as a vital new public safety tool.

Earlier this month, the Switzerland-based International Organization for Standardization approved the creation of a new merchant code that will allow financial institutions to better detect, and report suspicious activity related to the purchase of firearms and ammunition at standalone gun retail stores.

The new merchant code will not prevent anyone from legally purchasing a gun and is narrowly tailored so that it applies only to purchases made at independently owned gun retail shops.

The decision by these three credit card companies is viewed by gun safety advocates as an important step toward helping law enforcement better investigate gun crimes, prevent mass shootings, and combat illegal weapons trafficking.

In their letter, the coalition of AGs notes that there have been hundreds of mass shootings in 2022 alone, and points to such recent, high-profile examples as the supermarket mass shooting in Buffalo and the Uvalde elementary school massacre as evidence that gun violence is a national crisis.

The letter states that it will take a collective effort, “not just isolated acts,” to turn the tide on gun-related violence and crime.

The AGs anticipate that the adoption of these new merchant codes will yield vital information to fill “crucial data gaps” related to multiple purchases of firearms and ammunition.

The letter also points out how the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) has identified the repeated failure by retailers to report the sale of two or more firearms to the same person at one time.

The AGs believe this new merchant code will enable financial institutions to track multiple sales of firearms and ammunition to persons who seek to avoid the threshold for reporting gun purchases by making firearms purchases at several different retail outlets.

The AGs also say that another key advantage to the new merchant code is that it will enable financial institutions and law enforcement to analyze transaction patterns associated with mass shootings by persons who have rapidly acquired weapons and large caches of ammunition.

The new code may also be a valuable adjunct to “red flag” laws that many states have enacted to curb domestic terrorism.

While the AGs letter primarily served to commend these credit card companies for their adoption of these new merchant codes, the letter also makes a point of dismissing “fear-mongering arguments advanced by the gun industry” that say the new code is an incursion on Second Amendment rights.

While this code does not prohibit lawful firearm sales or impose new regulations on them, and while the adoption of these new rules will not pose a threat to consumer privacy, according to the AGs letter, many are concerned that these rules will create a database of firearms owners.

However, the coalition of 11 AGs supporting this move claims that the new merchant code will not be used to build a database of firearms owners, nor will it pose any more threat to consumer privacy than exists now through the application of many other merchant codes related to a broad range of consumer transactions including those at supermarkets, florists, bike shops, and many others.

So, what do you think about the adoption of these new firearms purchasing codes by three of the largest credit card companies in the world? Let us know in the comments.



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