Visa, Mastercard Pause Implementation of New Code to Track Gun Purchases

Visa, Mastercard Pause Implementation of New Code to Track Gun Purchases
A window sticker advertising Visa and MasterCard credit cards hangs in a window in San Francisco on Feb. 25, 2008. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Zachary Stieber
Visa and Mastercard confirmed on March 9 that they’re pausing the implementation of a new merchant category code (MCC) that will help track cardholders’ purchases at gun stores.
The pause stems from legislation advancing in several states that would restrict the use of the new code, and

“There is now significant confusion and legal uncertainty in the payments ecosystem, and the state actions disrupt the intent of global standards. Accordingly, Visa is pausing implementation of the MCC,” a spokesperson told The Epoch Times via email.

Mastercard said that the bills would cause “inconsistency” in how the code could be used.

“It’s for that reason that we have decided to pause work on the implementation of the firearms-specific MCC,” a spokesperson said.

Discover, which planned to start the tracking in April, said in an emailed statement that it’s removing the new MCC from its next network update planned for April, in order “to continue alignment and interoperability with the industry.”

State officials celebrated the development.

“This is a clear victory for consumers and Americans’ civil liberties,” Riley Moore, West Virginia’s state treasurer and a Republican, said in a statement. “The implementation of this new merchant category code would have created a backdoor national gun registry that could be used by the radical gun control lobby to undermine Americans’ Second Amendment rights.”

Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) added, “I’ve led efforts pushing back on attempts to block legal transactions and tracking gun purchases. Law-abiding gun owners should not be discriminated against.”

The companies “shouldn’t just ‘pause’ their implementation of this plan - they should end it definitively,” said Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen, a Republican.

Code Approved

The code was approved by the International Organization for Standardization in 2022. In addition to Mastercard and Visa, American Express and Discover stated that they would be implementing the code.

A representative for American Express, the third-largest payments network, didn’t immediately comment on March 9.

States have taken action. For example, West Virginia legislators introduced legislation in January that would ban credit card companies from collecting or disclosing data on firearm purchases. Officials in Florida, Mississippi, Oklahoma, and Texas also have crafted bills that would ban or restrict companies from utilizing the code.
proposal by Mississippi state Rep. Jansen Owen, a Republican, would bar payment-processing companies from “[requiring] the usage of or [assigning] a firearms or ammunition merchant category code to any merchant located in Mississippi that is a seller of firearms or ammunition separately from general merchandise retailers or sporting goods retailers.”

The legislation specifically refers to the new code, stating that it’s a means “to conduct mass surveillance of constitutionally protected firearms and ammunition purchases.”

“The Second Amendment Financial Privacy Act seeks to prevent credit card companies from unfairly and negatively targeting legal gun and ammo purchases,” Owen said after the state House of Representatives approved the legislation in February.

Visa had previously said that it would implement the 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,” a spokesperson said in September 2022.

While all the top payment networks had said they would adopt the new code, however only the smallest, Discover, had set a public timetable for April, and said it was only following the lead of others.

Nearly half of the state attorneys general in the country urged the credit card companies not to implement the code, asserting that the information obtained would be misused, whether unintentionally or deliberately.

However, Democrat officials had expressed support for the move, claiming that it would help prevent mass shootings.

“If someone is buying more guns and ammunition than legally allowed, law enforcement needs to know,” said Washington, D.C., Attorney General Karl Racine, a Democrat.

Reuters contributed to this report.
Zachary Stieber is a senior reporter for The Epoch Times based in Maryland. He covers U.S. and world news. Contact Zachary at [email protected]
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