Credit Card Companies Face Decisions Over Gun Sale Tracking

Rachel Curry - Author
By

Sep. 12 2022, Published 2:43 p.m. ET

Major credit card company Visa Inc. (V) has announced it will separately categorize gun sales made using its credit cards in the U.S. to do its part in gun control efforts.

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Visa credit cards account for more than half of all credit card purchases in the U.S, and it isn't the only credit card company to make the switch toward delineating gun sale tracking. The move is bound to make a splash amid an era of gun reform.

Visa, Mastercard, and American Express spark gun sale tracking movement.

Visa announced it’s joining Mastercard and American Express in placing gun sales in a category all their own for data tracking purposes.

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Together, the three credit card companies account for the majority of credit card spending in the U.S. (supplemented by the last of the big four credit card players, Discover).

The idea behind the decision is to catch abnormal gun sale transactions as they happen and potentially prevent mass shootings from occurring.

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According to the Gun Violence Archive, 479 mass shootings have taken place in the U.S. year-to-date as of Sept. 12. The Investigative Assistance for Violent Crimes Act of 2012 defines mass shootings as three or more deaths in a single incident.

Here's how credit card gun sale tracking works.

The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) set in stone a new merchant code for gun sales on Friday, Sept. 9. The code defines gun sales as separate from general merchandise, instead filling a separate category all its own.

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Visa said about the switch, "Following ISO's decision to establish a new merchant category code, Visa will proceed with next steps, while ensuring we protect all legal commerce on the Visa network in accordance with our long-standing rules.”

While three major credit card issuers have announced they are tracking gun sales as separate from general merchandise, banks must now make their own decisions. Banks can decide whether to ban card use at certain categories of merchants (for example, cannabis dispensaries). The same principle can be applied to gun stores given the new rules that separate it from general merchandise.

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Is credit card gun sale tracking legal? Gun rights advocates will likely dissent.

According to New York City Mayor Eric Adams, “When you buy an airline ticket or pay for your groceries, your credit card company has a special code for those retailers. It's just common sense that we have the same policies in place for gun and ammunition stores.”

Still, gun rights advocates say it isn't that simple. Lars Dalseide, National Rifle Association spokesman, told reporters, “The [...] 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.”

Ultimately, increased transparency for gun sales is happening, but pushback is imminent. Combined with this year’s federal bipartisan Safer Communities Act and several state-based initiatives, a new era of firearm commerce is upon us.

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