After facing mounting pressure from Democrats and anti-gun activists, credit card giants Visa, Mastercard, and American Express all announced plans this week to single out their customers’ purchases at firearm stores.
Using a new four-digit merchant category code, credit card companies will now categorize any purchases at gun ammunition stores, regardless if those purchases are of firearms or not, as separate from other shopping. If the credit card companies deem any of those transactions suspect, they will report them to local law enforcement agencies.
Visa, Mastercard, and AmEx all adopted the new standards on Saturday shortly after the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), which is known for setting standards for Western business transactions, approved the change regarding gun store purchases on Friday.
The ISO’s decision came at the behest of anti-gun activists and Democrat lawmakers, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who just one week prior, demanded financial CEOs be their eyes and ears when it comes to “certain types of suspicious activities including straw purchases and unlawful bulk purchases that could be used in the commission of domestic terrorist acts or gun trafficking schemes.”
“Mass shooters have repeatedly financed deadly massacres using credit cards, and Bank CEOs need to step up to save lives,” Warren wrote. “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.”
Even before Democrats decided to pressure credit card companies into doing their bidding on guns, Amalgamated Bank President and CEO Priscilla Sims Brown demanded financial institutions surveil the firearm industry using merchant category codes. Her initial plea to the ISO in June 2021 was rejected, based on recommendations from Visa, Mastercard, and American Express. But since Amalgamated Bank, the largest union-owned bank in the U.S. works closely with the ISO, it was no surprise that, shortly after Brown’s ongoing push to make credit companies the Big Brother of gun sales was once again amplified by corporate media in June of 2022, the ISO decided to adopt the new recommendations less than three months later.
As Federalist Senior Legal Correspondent Margot Cleveland noted in her previous coverage of Mastercard and Visa, academic research suggests that “disrupting the sale of illegal goods through the payment networks of Mastercard, Visa, and their partner banks appears more effective than legal action.” That’s because both Visa and Mastercard can “punish banks” out of doing business with entities that the credit card companies classify as illegal or problematic.
That’s likely why even Democrats outside of Congress, including, New York Attorney General Letitia James, celebrated involving credit card companies in the left’s push to crackdown on gun buyers and sellers as “a big victory.”
Gun rights groups and activists including the National Rifle Association, however, condemned the credit card giants for caving to Democrats’ and banks’ attempts to regulate law-abiding gun sellers and buyers using corporate America.
“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,” an NRA spokesman said in a statement this weekend. “This is not about tracking or prevention or any virtuous motivation — it’s about creating a national registry of gun owners.”