Sen. Warren wants credit card companies to track gun purchases

Gun Rights

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and a group of nearly 40 congressional Democrats are urging credit card companies to track gun and ammunition purchases. It would be the first step to facilitating the collection of data that could help law enforcement identify domestic terrorism threats, they say in a letter sent last week to executives at Mastercard, Visa and American Express.

“Mass shooters have repeatedly financed deadly massacres using credit cards, and Bank CEOs need to step up to save lives,” Warren said. “Financial institutions and payment networks, such as Visa, MasterCard and American Express can and should do everything they can to help law enforcement prevent some mass shootings by identifying suspicious gun purchases through the implementation of this new code.”

Warren and the other lawmakers want the credit card companies to create a four-digit code to identify gun and ammunition purchases. Known as a merchant category code, it would allow the financial institutions to flag suspicious patterns of transactions to fight gun crime, they said.

The credit card companies are already required to use merchant category codes to look out for money laundering, terrorism and other suspicious behavior. As of right now, gun stores aren’t marked as a separate class of merchants in the online financial system.

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Other Democrats across the nation have also encouraged the credit card companies to create a merchant category code for gun merchants. New York Attorney General Rob Bonta and California Attorney General Letitia James said in a joint letter, “if tracking MCCs could stop just one mass shooting or derail one gun trafficker aiming to flood the streets with guns, the change would be justified.”

A Mastercard spokesman told the Wall Street Journal that its are reviewing how a gun store merchant category code would be implemented in its network. “This will help us continue to deliver a payments system that supports all legal purchases while protecting the privacy and decisions of individual cardholders,” he said.

The National Rifle Association responded to the Democrats’ request by questioning the intent of the proposal and said they worry about the actual effect it would have on gun purchasers. 

“Implying that firearm purchases are suspicious demonstrates an obvious bias these attorneys general hold against choosing to exercise a fundamental constitutional right,’’ spokesman Lars Dalseide told the Journal.

The International Organization for Standardization decides what merchant category codes are used to classify merchants by their purpose of business. The ISO is scheduled to meet in Oslo, Norway, this November. Executives from each of the three credit card companies sit on review committees for ISO where they could sway the vote.

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