Republican AGs urge credit card companies to terminate plan to add merchant code for gun retailers

News & Politics

The republican attorneys general of 24 states wrote a letter this week to Visa, Mastercard, and American Express, urging them to halt plans on adding a new merchant category code for firearm retailers.

Tennessee Attorney General Jonathan Skrmetti and Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen led the measure, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The letter warned that a new merchant category code for gun retailers could violate the rights of citizens by preventing the purchase of firearms.

“Categorizing the constitutionally protected right to purchase firearms unfairly singles out law-abiding merchants and consumers alike,” the letter read.

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According to Wall Street Journal, attorneys general signed the letter until last night, and Virginia’s office joined Tuesday morning.

In a blog article from Visa, the credit card company stated that many “misunderstand” the purpose of merchant category codes.

“Many misunderstand what that means and are, in turn, advocating the use of MCCs to ‘track’ gun sales as a potential tool in combatting gun violence. That’s not what merchant codes are designed for, nor should they be,” wrote Visa.

The company explained that the codes only distinguish the type of retailer, never the items purchased.

“They are four-digit category codes used only to classify the type of business a retailer operates. However, MCCs do not give Visa or any other payment network visibility into product-level data, also known as ‘SKU-level’ data,” the blog article stated.

Currently, firearm stores are listed with an MCC shared by a broader category of specialty retailers. Gun-control advocates are pushing for credit card companies to identify gun retailers with a unique code, claiming that it will help prevent mass shootings.

Visa stated, “We do not believe private companies should serve as moral arbiters. Asking private companies to decide what legal products or services can or cannot be bought and from what store sets a dangerous precedent.”

A new MCC for firearm retailers was recently approved in response to the mounting pressure on credit card companies to monitor gun sales.

Tennessee AG Skrmetti and Montana AG Knudsen warned that they plan to launch investigations into Visa, Mastercard, and American Express if they move forward with their plan to add the new code.

The letter from the 23 republican attorneys general read, “We will marshal the full scope of our lawful authority to protect our citizens and consumers from unlawful attempts to undermine their constitutional rights.”

“If we identify unauthorized blocking or intentional restrictions of legal commerce, we will take swift action to address such activity,” Mastercard said.

The credit card companies assured the public that the new merchant category code would not be used to prevent purchases. However, the entire purpose of enabling the new code is to legally require the card companies to flag any “suspicious” transactions to law enforcement.

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