Lawmakers call for action on gun code

Gun Rights

Dive Brief:

  • Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and 48 other congressional Democrats sent letters to the CEOs of the four biggest card networks Wednesday, demanding answers on their delayed implementation of a new gun merchant category code.
  • Legislators expressed “disappointment” that Visa, Mastercard, American Express and Discover Financial Services have paused their work to implement the unique gun merchant category code that would apply to firearm retailers.
  • “We request that you resume this work and quickly implement the new firearm retailer MCC,” the lawmakers wrote. They also called on the card companies to provide answers to a dozen questions related to the code by Jan. 12.

Dive Insight:

The gun merchant category code — approved by the International Organization for Standardization in September 2022 and published in February — has become a politically charged issue for the four major card networks. 

Visa, Mastercard, Amex and Discover all backed off implementation of the gun MCC in March, with some citing state legislation prohibiting use of the code. 

A number of states, including Texas, Florida and Montana, have passed legislation this year related to blocking the code’s use. Language in the laws varies, but they generally ban financial institutions from requiring a specific code be applied to firearm merchants, according to the National Rifle Association’s Institute for Legislative Action, which opposes the code’s implementation. 

In California, however, a new law will require banks and credit card companies to use the code

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State attorneys general have clashed on the issue too. Some Democrats have called on the card networks to move ahead with the code while some Republicans have urged them to halt implementation of the code. 

In March, Warren and Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), urged the Treasury and Justice departments to quickly put forth guidance designed to facilitate implementation of the gun code. 

Pausing adoption of the gun MCC “signals an unwillingness to address your company’s role in financing gun trafficking, gun violence, and acts of domestic terrorism,” lawmakers told each card network’s CEO in Wednesday’s letters.

In the letters, the legislators asked the card network CEOs about the progress their companies have made in implementing the code. Specifically, they asked whether the companies support implementation of the code and plan to implement it in the states that haven’t prohibited it. In particular, they asked whether the card companies plan to comply with California’s law.

None of the card companies’ spokespeople immediately responded to requests for comment on the letters.

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