VISA and Mastercard have put their decision to begin categorizing purchases at gun stores on hold.
Payment processors announced in September that they planned to use a new merchant code to categorize sales at gun shops.
Payment processor Visa Inc. said Saturday that it plans to start separately categorizing sales at gun shops, a major win for gun control advocates who say it will help better track suspicious surges of gun sales that could be a prelude to a mass shooting.
But the decision by Visa, the world’s largest payment processor, will likely provoke the ire of gun rights advocates and gun lobbyists, who have argued that categorizing gun sales would unfairly flag an industry when most sales do not lead to mass shootings. It joins Mastercard and American Express, which also said they plan to move forward with categorizing gun shop sales.
Visa said it would adopt the International Organization for Standardization’s new merchant code for gun sales, which was announced on Friday. Until Friday, gun store sales were considered “general merchandise.”
“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,” the payment processor said in a statement.
Conservative politicians and Republican state attorneys general, on the other hand, were outraged.
Two dozen Republican state attorneys general threatened VISA and Mastercard with legal action if the program went forward.
Several state legislatures have also proposed legislation to prohibit the tracking of gun shop sales.
As a result, the payment processors halted the program.
NEW: Visa and Mastercard have decided to pause implementing a plan that activists had hoped would track firearm sales and help curb gun violence https://t.co/x2HljqKLN9
— Bloomberg (@business) March 9, 2023
Visa, Mastercard, Discover pause work on code that would track gun purchases https://t.co/SgIm8GRrIm
— FOX Business (@FoxBusiness) March 9, 2023
Visa and Mastercard paused their decision to start categorizing purchases at gun shops, a significant win for conservative groups and Second Amendment advocates who felt that tracking gun shop purchases would inadvertently discriminate against legal firearms purchases.
The decision is, at the same time, also a defeat for gun control groups. There had been hope that categorizing credit and debit card purchases would allow authorities to potentially see red flags — like significant ammunition purchases — before a mass shooting could happen.
According to Fox Business, Discover also planned to pause its plan to track purchases at gun stores.
Visa Inc., MasterCard Inc., and Discover Inc., have paused their work on a plan to track when cardholders make purchases at gun stores.
The payment processing companies said Thursday they have suspended their work on the International Organization for Standardization’s new merchant category code (MCC) for firearms and ammunition stores. The move was first reported by Bloomberg.
Anti-gun activists have championed the adoption of a new code, which they say would flag gun sales and potentially help monitor suspicious activity that could lead to mass shootings. Gun-rights activists, on the other hand, oppose the initiative as both a violation of Second Amendment and privacy rights.
Reached for comment, a MasterCard spokesman confirmed to Fox Business the company has paused work on the new MCC for gun stores.
“Today, there are bills advancing in several states related to the use of this new code. If passed, the result will be an inconsistency in how this ISO standard could be applied by merchants, issuers, acquirers and networks,” said Seth Eisen, senior vice president of communications for Mastercard. “It’s for that reason that we have decided to pause work on the implementation of the firearms-specific MCC.”
“This is a clear victory for consumers and Americans’ civil liberties. 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,” said West Virginia State Treasurer Riley Moore.
Visa and Mastercard dropped their plans to track firearm and ammunition purchases because of my legislation.
When conservatives fight, we win. pic.twitter.com/m1rOfJSoVU
— Riley Moore (@RileyMooreWV) March 9, 2023