Second Amendment advocacy organizations are blasting the major credit card companies’ plan to distinguish gun purchases in payment processors, saying it is a step toward a database of U.S. gun owners.
Visa Inc. announced over the weekend that it will begin to categorize sales at gun shops, joining Mastercard and American Express. Gun control advocates say the category will better track suspicious sales that could lead to mass shootings.
Visa said it would adopt the International Organization for Standardization’s new merchant code for gun store sales. Until Friday, gun store sales were considered “general merchandise.”
The National Rifle Association called the action “a capitulation” to gun control groups.
“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. This is not about tracking or prevention or any virtuous motivation – it’s about creating a national registry of gun owners,” NRA spokesman Lars Dalseide said.
“With a few keystrokes, this new code creates a list of people who purchased firearms, ammunition and firearm-related accessories – that’s the very definition of a registry. It’s an attempt to outsource the creation of a gun owner registry, something that the federal government is prohibited from doing.”
Erich Pratt, senior vice president for Gun Owners of America, called the action by the financial institutions “the latest attempt by anti-gun lunatic activists to pressure corporations into collecting their own business partners’ data in a way that threatens their privacy, as well as the privacy of the millions of customers who rely on these services for electronic transactions each year.”
He predicted that the data would not stay with the credit card companies.
“Make no mistake, if the credit card companies were willing to so quickly cave on this demand, the mob will only demand more, leading us down a dark path where guns and ammo transactions, which are protected by the Second Amendment, are frequently halted and consistently flagged for the authorities,” he said.
Second Amendment Foundation Executive Vice President Alan Gottlieb said in a statement that this is “another attempt to disrupt and demonize people from buying firearms and ammunition by violating privacy rights and creating a database of gun owners.”
The move by the major payment processors also could affect online legal gun sales, Mr. Gottlieb said.
“It is being done to hurt online sales. Guns.com and gunbroker.com and others are targets,” he said. “The gun prohibition lobby wants to shut down all Internet sales even if the firearms have to be delivered from local dealers with background checks.”
Mr. Gottlieb noted that online sales of firearms require payment by credit card because PayPal and other online payment processors prohibit the use of their services to buy firearms.
The National Shooting Sports Foundation, the firearms industry trade association, called the ISO approval to create merchant category codes for firearm and ammunition purchases “flawed on its premise.”
“Those authorities that have been clamoring for these codes claim this will assist law enforcement to uncover suspect purchases without specific criteria to define what would be considered suspicious,” foundation spokesman Mark Oliva said in a statement.
“Attaching codes specific to firearm and ammunition purchases casts a dark pall by gun control advocates who are only interested in disarming lawful gun owners,” he said.
Mr. Oliva said the ultimate goal of those championing the application of the codes is to deny firearm and ammunition purchases through the use of credit cards.
Some pornography businesses have had to close because private vendors refused to process transactions as a result of political-moral pressure.
Gun control advocates lauded the move by Visa and other major financial institutions.
“Today’s announcement is a critical first step towards giving banks and credit card companies the tools they need to recognize dangerous firearm purchasing trends — like a domestic extremist building up an arsenal — and report them to law enforcement,” said John Feinblatt, president of Everytown for Gun Safety.
Still, he said his group wants more.
“This is only the first step. Now it’s vital that merchants and banks implement this code swiftly before more guns end up in the wrong hands,” he said.
Shannon Watts, the founder of Moms Demand Action, praised the move and called on all financial entities to flag gun-related purchases.
“It takes all of us to tackle our gun violence epidemic, which is why we’re grateful for Amalgamated Bank’s leadership in this effort and call for all other banks and financial institutions to follow suit,” she said.
Amalgamated Bank was one of the leaders of the campaign pressing for the new codes.