Two dozen Republican state attorneys general warned the chief executive officers of three major credit card companies Tuesday that the recent creation of a Merchant Category Code for processing purchases from gun stores is potentially a violation of consumer protection and antitrust laws.
The letter was sent one week after Visa announced earlier this month that it would join American Express and Mastercard and begin categorizing sales at gun shops, to help 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, which it had previously categorized as “general merchandise.”
In the letter to the CEOs of American Express, Mastercard, and Visa, the attorneys general say the monitoring and tracking of firearms purchases creates a “list of gun buyers” and creates an obvious risk that law-abiding consumers’ information will be obtained and misused by those who oppose Americans exercising their Second Amendment rights.
“The new code will not protect public safety. Categorizing the constitutionally protected right to purchase firearms unfairly singles out law-abiding merchants and consumers alike. First, efforts to track and monitor sales at gun stores would only result in vague and misleading information,” the attorneys-general wrote.
“This categorization would not recognize the difference, for example, between the purchase of a gun safe and a firearm. Nor would it capture firearm purchases made at department stores, resulting in arbitrarily disparate treatment of ‘gun store’ merchants and consumers,” they added.
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The state law-enforcement chiefs stated that “purposefully” monitoring this data will likely lead to its misuse, either unintentional or deliberate.
“Creating and tracking this data only matters if your institutions are considering using that information to take further, harmful action — like infringing upon consumer privacy, inhibiting constitutionally protected purchases by selectively restricting the use of your payment systems, or otherwise withholding your financial services from targeted ‘disfavored’ merchants,” they wrote.
“Generating a ‘list of gun buyers’ creates the obvious risk that law-abiding consumers’ information will be leaked, discovered, hacked, or otherwise obtained and misused by those who oppose Americans exercising their Second Amendment rights,” they warned.
The Republican attorneys-general pointed the finger at gun-control advocates as the forces behind the new merchant-code category, which they warned the companies could expose them in court.
“Press releases from public officials make clear that the new merchant code was created and adopted in concert with various state actors, which may additionally create the potential for both civil and criminal liability for conspiracy to deprive Americans of their civil rights,” the coalition of attorneys general wrote.
The AGs advised the CEOs of the credit card companies, that they will “marshal the full scope of their lawful authority” to protect their citizens and consumers from “unlawful attempts to undermine their constitutional rights.”
“Social policy should be debated and determined within our political institutions. Americans are tired of seeing corporate leverage used to advance political goals that cannot muster basic democratic support,” they warned.