As previously reported, on September 9, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) approved a Merchant Category Code (MCC) for firearms retailers. MCCs allow payment processors and banks to categorize, monitor, and collect data on various types of transactions. Prior to the ISO decision, gun retailers fell under the MCC for sporting goods or miscellaneous retail stores.
This week, more elected officials across the country pushed back against the use of financial transaction information to surveil or discriminate against gun owners.
First, Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen, along with Tennessee Attorney General Jonathan Skrmetti, and a coalition of 22 other states sent a letter to the CEOs of Visa, Mastercard, and American Express. The letter clearly stated that financial information should not be used to discriminate against gun owners:
More importantly, knowingly tracking this information can only result in its misuse, inadvertently or deliberately. Creating and tracking this data only matters if your institutions plan to use this information to take other harmful actions, such as invading consumer privacy, preventing constitutionally protected purchases by selectively restricting the use of your payment systems or preventing your financial services from being targeted. “disadvantaged” traders.
Attorneys General have made it clear that they will not sit idly by while their constituents’ rights are violated:
Know that we will use the full extent of our legal authority to protect our citizens and consumers from unlawful attempts to infringe on their constitutional rights. Please keep this in mind when considering the adoption and implementation of this Merchant Category Code.
Then Florida CFO Jimmy Patronis issued a similar warning:
If we get to the legislative session and companies like Visa, Mastercard and American Express are generating these reports to create a deterrent effect against gun buying, then I will work with the Legislature to pass legislation penalizing companies that target the right reach out. We’ve seen a groundbreaking ruling come out of the Fifth Circuit limiting the ability of corporations to restrict Americans’ constitutional rights, so we’re on solid legal footing to pursue a bill protecting Floridians 2n/a Amendment rights. We can also go further by prohibiting these companies from doing business with the State of Florida. We will send a message to these big corporations that if you are interested in doing business with Florida, you need to make sure that you protect Floridians’ right to arm and defend themselves.
Finally, Sen. Kevin Cramer (RN.D.) led a letter from Republican members of the Senate Banking Committee to the Bank Policy Institute (BPI). The senators made it clear that the creation of the new MCC was only the first step in a plan to put pressure on the gun industry and gun owners:
The creation of the new MCC was widely celebrated by liberal Democrats and gun control advocates. They made it clear that this was just the start of their campaign to block legal gun purchases. Then, large retailers that do not fall under the new MCC will be forced to adopt MCC in specific registers in their stores or use unique codes for firearm purchases. Credit card companies will be pushed to develop algorithms that flag legal gun purchases as suspicious activity based on these codes. Eventually, liberal activists and financial regulators will pressure banks to block these perfectly legal transactions.
The letter made it clear that it is not for unelected bank leaders to engage in public policy decisions:
Let’s be clear: Banks must not abuse their power to prevent law-abiding Americans from exercising a constitutional right by de facto prohibiting the legal purchase of firearms. Addressing complex and contentious social and political issues that involve balancing competing values is the job of democratically elected leaders, not unelected bank executives. We urge BPI members to resist political pressure to get involved in such issues, especially firearms. Instead, our nation’s largest financial institutions should focus on serving their customers’ needs without bias.
Despite this setback, there is no indication that payment processors have deviated from their plan to implement the new MCC. Please check www.nraila.org as new developments on this important issue become available.