Republican Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte enacted a bill last week that would bar financial institutions from requiring that retailers in the state apply a special code to track firearms purchases.
Last year, a committee on the International Organization for Standardization (ISO)—a Switzerland-based organization that sets and monitors quality standards for a variety of industries—voted to establish a new merchant category code (MCC) for firearms. The firearms-specific MCC would allow financial institutions to track gun sales separately from the “general merchandise” category on other retail products.
Gun rights advocates have pushed back against the firearms-specific MCCs, and lawmakers in several states have begun pursuing legislation to block the gun-purchase tracking agenda.
Montana is one such state that has sought to block the firearm MCC with a state bill. The bill states that financial institutions, including banks, credit unions, online payment processors and applications, cryptocurrency companies, and any other institutions providing financial transaction services, “may not require a firearms retailer in this state to use a firearms code that is different from that of a general transaction.”
The Montana Senate passed the bill in March, followed by the state House in April. Gianforte signed the bill into law on May 19.
The National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), a firearms industry trade association, celebrated the passage of the bill.
“Americans exercising their right to legally purchase firearms and ammunition should never be threatened by private financial service providers or government authorities to having their name and financial data being added to a government-accessible watchlist simply for exercising their Second Amendment rights,” NSSF Senior Vice President and General Counsel Lawrence Keane said in a Wednesday press statement. “Governor Gianforte is ensuring that Montanans won’t be held captive by the radical ‘woke’ antigun agenda that seeks to weaponize credit cards in gun owners’ wallets against them. Gun owners should worry about what’s in their wallet, not who’s in their wallet.”
States Pushing Back on Gun-Purchase Tracking
Montana is one of several states that have pushed back on the firearm-specific MCC system. West Virginia, Idaho, Mississippi, North Dakota, and Florida have passed similar laws in recent months.
In March, credit card giants Visa, Mastercard, and American Express paused plans to implement the firearm MCC system. The card issuers shared concerns about “confusion and legal uncertainty” created by the new state laws.
Gun Violence Prevention Tool or Backdoor Registry?
Gun-control proponents like Guns Down America, The Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, and New Yorkers Against Gun Violence all praised the ISO after it voted to move ahead with the firearms MCC system in September. In a joint statement, the gun-control advocates said several mass shootings had followed gun purchases with electronic payments.
“Credit card purchases have consistently been involved in some of our nation’s worst mass shootings. Credit card companies have rules to stop fraud and human trafficking. This common-sense decision means the same rules will apply to guns, making it easier to stop illegal firearms-related activity,” said Guns Down America founder Igor Volsky.
“This small change to business practices will help identify illegal or suspicious activity to stop shootings before they happen and save lives,” said Brady President Kris Brown.
Opponents of the firearms MCC have, by contrast, argued that the system would intrude on the privacy of gun owners and lead to harassment.
The National Rifle Association’s Institute for Legal Action (NRA-ILA) argued that the MCC system would provide a legal backdoor for a gun registry, which is currently prohibited under federal law.
“The new MCC could provide a way for the government to outsource the creation of a registry that the government itself is prohibited from creating,” the NRA-ILA said.
Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen joined 23 other Republican state attorney generals in a letter (pdf) in September, urging Visa, Mastercard and American Express to avoid implementing the MCC system.
“Purposefully tracking this information can only result in its misuse, either unintentional or deliberate,” the 24 state attorney generals wrote.
The 24 attorney generals said even outside of creating a backdoor gun registry for the government, the MCC system still creates “the obvious risk that law-abiding consumers’ information will be leaked, discovered, hacked, or otherwise obtained and misused by those who oppose Americans exercising their Second Amendment rights.”
From NTD News