Second Amendment supporters and law-abiding gun owners can breathe a sigh of relief. For now, at least. The four major credit card companies – American Express, VISA, Mastercard and Discover – have all announced they are “pausing” efforts to implement a newly-created Merchant Category Code (MCC) to track gun store purchases.
NSSF worked diligently with lawmakers in several states and the federal government last year when the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) adopted a credit card tracking scheme proposed by anti-gun activists at Amalgamated Bank and The New York Times.
The result is several states are on the verge of passing legislation that would block the use of firearm retailer-specific code and protect the privacy of customers of firearm retailers, including West Virginia, Florida and Mississippi. Congress is also looking at the issue.
“There are bills advancing in several states related to the use of this new code,” Mastercard said in a statement. “It’s for that reason that we have decided to pause work on the implementation of the firearms-specific MCC.”
A Good First Step
The gun retailer MCC was the pet project effort of Amalgamated Bank President and CEO Priscilla Sims Brown. The union-owned bank pushes progressive causes and gun control and has been called “The Left’s Private Banker.”
Sims Brown has been assisted by The New York Times’ Andrew Ross Sorkin, who specifically called on banks to use their infrastructure to track law-abiding Americans who make lawful purchases at gun retailers.
The international standards board which creates MCCs caved to Amalgamated Bank’s multiple petitions for the gun-specific code in September 2022. Questions remain about how that petition process unfolded. Speaking with Sorkin at a New York Times conference, Sims Brown called the new code the “very early stages of this.”
The credit card companies initially said they’d implement the code. The 180-degree turn is welcome news.
Mastercard stated they were pausing. Visa followed, citing the “significant confusion and legal uncertainty” that various legislative proposals have created. Visa CEO Al Kelly said before the codes wouldn’t work as Amalgamated Bank and other gun control advocates wished.
If [Visa’s Chief Communications Officer] K.C. Kavanagh goes into a gun store and buys three thermoses and a tent, and you go in and buy a rifle and five rounds of ammunition, all I know is you both went to the same gun store… But I don’t know what you bought.
Discover was the first card company to publicly state it would implement the MCC. They reversed course and said the company is “removing the new MCC from its next network update planned for April in order ‘to continue alignment and interoperability with the industry.’” American Express emailed statements to media saying they were “pausing” their implementation of the code as well.
NSSF is encouraged by this latest turnaround, but recognizes a “pause” doesn’t necessarily mean the code has been scrapped for good.
Gun Controllers Howling
It’s no surprise gun control advocates who disregard Constitutional rights of law-abiding Americans to push restrictive policies that don’t reduce criminal misuse of firearms – like the MCC – were quick to respond to the turnaround.
Adam Skaggs of Giffords Law Center, the legal arm of Giffords gun control, decried the banks’ decisions. “It’s just shameful these companies would buckle to political intimidation,” he said. That’s a pretty ironic statement considering the political pressure anti-gun politicians and groups brought to bear on the payment processors and the ISO.
Everytown, the gun control group bankrolled by billionaire and gun control hypocrite Michael Bloomberg, celebrated when the gun store MCC was created, calling it a “critical step.” It’s been crickets from the group so far on the credit card companies’ reversals.
“It is shameful to hear reports that credit card companies Visa and Mastercard have caved to the gun lobby’s transparent political ploys. If true, Visa and Mastercard are choosing political expediency over American lives.” -Our President @KrisB_Brownhttps://t.co/vsVDnZVPnv
— Brady | United Against Gun Violence (@bradybuzz) March 10, 2023
Brady United gun control President Kris Brown called the companies “shameful.” She nonsensically blamed future misuse of firearms by criminals on the credit card companies.
“Make no mistake, Americans will continue to suffer and die as a result of this deadly decision,” Brown said. “The choice they have now is clear: adopt this new tool at their disposal to prevent gun violence, or drag their feet while gun violence devastates our communities across the country.”
We will hold them accountable for this short-sighted decision.https://t.co/2bnfTAW2oo
— Guns Down America (@GunsDownAmerica) March 10, 2023
Gun control activist and Guns Down America Executive Director Igor Volsky went so far as to threaten the companies, saying he would hold payment companies accountable “for any delays in implementing this common-sense tool,” including by “communicating with their shareholders.”
While the pause is a positive development, the firearm industry will remain vigilant and work against any efforts to infringe on the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding Americans and its members’ ability to conduct lawful commerce.
Merchant Category Codes can help credit card companies flag suspicious firearms and ammunition purchases. Solutions like this can help us curb senseless gun violence.https://t.co/Go3rjDYmT4
— Kris Brown | President, bradyunited.org (@KrisB_Brown) March 15, 2023
The gun store MCC was always an “initial step” towards backdoor gun control, including illegal gun registries. It was never about realistic efforts to reduce criminal gun misuse.
For the time being, NSSF applauds the credit card companies for making the right decision. NSSF will continue to work with state legislators and Congress to put an end to blatantly discriminatory efforts to push gun control schemes on law-abiding Americans.
Larry Keane is SVP for Government and Public Affairs, Assistant Secretary and General Counsel of the National Shooting Sports Foundation.