Credit card firms issue retail codes that track sales at gun stores

Gun Rights

SACRAMENTO, California: According to a new law in California, Credit card networks such as Visa and Mastercard will now provide banks with special retail codes that can track sales at gun stores.

Financial institutions can use the codes to help identify fraud, money laundering or unusual purchasing patterns reported as suspicious to the U.S. Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network.

Lawmakers in Colorado and New York followed California’s lead, but the same laws banned using the codes in Georgia, Iowa, Tennessee, and Wyoming.

The laws have divided state capitols along familiar partisan lines, highlighting one of the nation’s newest gun policy debates.

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Some Democratic lawmakers and gun-control activists hope the new law will avert mass shootings and other crimes and help law enforcement agencies track suspicious gun-related purchases.

However, Republican lawmakers and gun-rights advocates believe this could cast suspicion on innocent gun buyers. Seventeen GOP states have passed measures prohibiting a firearms store code or limiting its use over the past 16 months.

Last week, U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy said gun violence is a public health crisis, citing more than 48,000 deaths in 2022. The National Rifle Association promptly criticized it.

States have lined up for a confrontation over other gun policies. On July 4, Republican-led Louisiana will become the 29th state to allow residents to carry concealed guns without a permit.

Meanwhile, Democratic-led New Mexico this year required a seven-day waiting period for gun purchases for a federal background check.

States also have responded differently to recent mass shootings. In Democrat Maine, where an Army reservist killed 18 people and wounded 13 others, the Legislature passed new gun restrictions. In Republican Iowa and Tennessee, the legislatures took steps to allow more trained teachers to bring guns into classrooms following school shootings.

The legislation targeting firearm store category codes came after the International Organization for Standardization, based in Geneva, set thousands of voluntary standards for various fields, including category codes for all kinds of businesses, from bakeries to boat dealers to bookstores.

Credit card networks distribute those category lists to banks, assigning particular codes to businesses they handle.

The merchant code could lead more people to buy guns with cash instead of credit to protect their privacy, said Dan Eldridge, owner of Maxon Shooter’s Supplies in suburban Chicago.

Iowa state Republican Senator Jason Schultz said he feared federal agents could gain access to data about gun store purchases from financial institutions, then raid gun owners’ homes and infringe on their Second Amendment rights.

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