NRA slams push to track guns purchased with credit cards

Gun Rights

The National Rifle Association is slamming the credit card industry’s new effort to track gun purchases, describing the plan as “creating a national registry of gun owners.”

The NRA is pushing back against decision on Friday from the International Standards Organization (ISO), which sets rules across the financial services industry, to create a new merchant category code for gun and ammunition retailers. ISO’s decision comes after mounting pressure on credit card companies by Democrats in Congress who favor use of such a code. 

Merchant category codes are four-digit codes that describe the retailer where a purchase is made, without detailing the specific item bought. These codes allow credit-card issuers to track and restrict purchases — for instance, offering rewards credit cards that give bonus points for travel purchases or cash-back on grocery spending.

Supporters of the new code say the effort will help flag suspicious firearms sales and reduce gun crime. Until now, credit card companies lumped firearm dealers with other retail or sporting goods stores.

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On Monday, the NRA questioned the purpose of the new code and the motives for creating it. 

“The ISO’s decision to create a firearm specific code is nothing more than a capitulation to anti-gun politicians and activists bent on eroding the rights of law-abiding Americans one transaction at a time,” NRA spokesman Lars Dalseide said in an email to CBS MoneyWatch. “This is not about tracking or prevention or any virtuous motivation — it’s about creating a national registry of gun owners.”

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Gun rights advocates and lobbyists like the NRA have argued that categorizing gun sales would unfairly flag an industry when most sales do not lead to mass shootings.

Advocates for the new code for firearms merchants say it could help law enforcement spot suspicious purchasing patterns, potentially averting mass shootings where gun purchases were financed by credit cards. 

For instance, the shooter who terrorized a Colorado movie theater in 2012 charged more than $9,000 worth of guns, ammunition and tactical gear in the two months before his attack, which killed 12 people and injured 70. 

Visa, Mastercard and American Express all said they plan to move forward with the plan to categorize gun shop sales.

Gun control advocates, along with two of the country’s largest public pension funds, have supported use of the code. Merchant category codes now exist for almost every kind of purchase, including those made at supermarkets, clothing stores, coffee shops and many other retailers.

“When you buy an airline ticket or pay for your groceries, your credit card company has a special code for those retailers. It’s just common sense that we have the same policies in place for gun and ammunition stores,” New York City Mayor Eric Adams, a former police captain who blames the proliferation of guns for his city’s deadly violence, said late last month in urging credit card companies to adopt a merchant code for gun and ammunition stores.

— With reporting by the Associated Press.

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