An international standards body has approved the creation of a merchant category code for gun retailers to identify credit card sales of guns and ammunition.
The approval took place at a meeting on Sept. 7, ISO confirmed to The Epoch Times in an email. Members of the Registration and Maintenance Management Group “were unable to reach a decision regarding this application,” which resulted to the decision being “escalated to the ISO/TC 68/SC9 leadership (as per current process) who then met on the same day.” The leadership oversees standards for retail financial services.
“Considering the application met all the criteria from ISO 18245 and no material arguments pertaining to the approval criteria outlined in the ISO 18245 standard to reject the code were made, SC9 leadership has approved this MCC application in order to comply with the standard,” the ISO told The Epoch Times.
Merchant category codes comprise four digits and are used to classify retailers across various industries.
The approval from ISO enables banks that process payments from gun retailers to decide whether they should assign the new category code to gun merchants. The code could help monitors track where a person spends money via card, but wouldn’t show what specific items were purchased.
Amalgamated Bank, which calls itself “America’s socially responsible bank,” said that its decision to push for creating the new code is “the result of nearly three years of research and partnership with issue experts at Guns Down America and Giffords Law Center and broad support from elected officials, pension funds, and others across the United States.”
Bank Urges Card Companies to Adopt New Category CodeFollowing the ISO approval, Amalgamated Bank is calling for credit card companies that typically follow the ISO standards to implement the new merchant category, but it is unclear whether the companies will adopt it.
Priscilla Sims Brown, the president and CEO of the bank, said on Sept. 9: “We all have to do our part to stop gun violence. And it sometimes starts with illegal purchases of guns and ammunition.”
“The new code will allow us to fully comply with our duty to report suspicious activity and illegal gun sales to authorities without blocking or impeding legal gun sales,” she said in a statement. “This action answers the call of millions of Americans who want safety from gun violence and we are proud to have led the broad coalition of advocates, shareholders, and elected officials that achieved this historic outcome.”
The bank in its release announcing the approval of the new merchant code also shared separate statements from multiple New York officials and lawmakers who support the move, including New York Gov. Kathy Hochul, New York Attorney General Letitia James, New York City Mayor Eric Adams, New York City Comptroller Brad Lander, New York State Sen. Zellnor Myrie, and New York State Rep. Chantel Jackson.
CriticismsSome groups have criticized the ISO approval. Mark Oliva, the managing director for public affairs for the National Shooting Sports Foundation, a U.S. trade association for the firearms industry, told The Center Square that the code’s creation was “flawed on its premise.”
“Those who believe it will help law enforcement do not provide details on what should be considered suspicious purchases,” Oliva told the outlet.
Credit Card Companies Respond to ApprovalCongressional Democrats Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Rep. Madeleine Dean (D-Pa.) previously announced on Sept. 2 that they reached out to the CEOs of MasterCard, American Express, and Visa, seeking support for the creation of the new merchant category code and to “request information about their reported opposition to Amalgamated Bank’s application for such a code.”
Following ISO’s approval of the new merchant category code, a spokesperson for Mastercard told outlets: “we now turn our focus to how it will be implemented by merchants and their banks as we continue to support lawful purchases on our network while protecting the privacy and decisions of individual cardholders.”
“This is exactly how we would manage the process for any other appropriate [merchant category code], like a bicycle shop or sporting goods store,” the Mastercard spokesperson said.
An American Express spokesperson said that when ISO develops a new code, the company works with third-party processors and partners on the implementation. “It is important to note that [merchant category] codes are one of many data points that help us understand the industries in which our merchants operate,” the spokesperson told outlets. “We are focused on ensuring that we have the right controls in place to meet our regulatory and fiduciary responsibilities, as well as prevent illegal activity on our network.”
In a statement on Sept. 10, Visa said it would adopt the ISO’s new merchant code.
“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,” it said, reported The Associated Press.