Second Amendment advocacy organizations are blasting the major credit-card companies over their plan to distinguish gun purchases in their payment processors, panning the idea as a step toward a database of U.S. gun owners.
Visa Inc. announced over the weekend that it will begin to categorize separately sales at gun shops, which gun-control advocates say will help better track suspicious surges of gun sales that could lead to a mass shooting.
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, spokesman 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 in the hands of 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 president Alan Gottlieb said in a statement 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 could also affect online legal gun sales, Mr. Gottlieb noted.
“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 purchasers can presently only use credit cards to buy firearms online, because PayPal and other online payment processors prohibit using their services to purchase firearms.
The payment processor joins Mastercard and American Express, which also said their companies will start to label gun shop sales separately from general merchandise.
The National Shooting and 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,” NSSF 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 that the ultimate goal of those championing the application of these codes is to deny firearm and ammunition purchases through the use of credit cards.
Some pornographic businesses have been put out of business because private vendors refused to process transactions as a result of political-moral pressure.
Gun control advocates, however, 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.
But he noted that 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, founder of Moms Demand Action praised the move and also called on all financial entities to similarly 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.