Representatives of the credit card industry have cleared the path for a new way to track firearm and ammo purchases. Supporters say this will help flag up suspicious sales and reduce crime. At a meeting this week, the International Standards Organization (ISO), which creates rules for the financial services sector, created a new code of merchant categories for ammunition and gun retailers Gun Store. The decision was announced on Friday. The decision was made amid increasing pressure from Democrats in Congress, who called for the code to be created.
Merchant category codes consist of four digits. They are used in all industries to classify retailers without revealing specific product purchases. Credit card companies classify firearm retailers as “5999: Other retail stores” or “5941 Sporting Goods Stores”.
A new code for firearms retailers could flag potentially suspicious buying patterns to law enforcement, much like banks and credit unions reported more than 1.4 million suspicious activity reports for other types of transactions that could suggest anything from identity fraud to terrorist financing. Supporters of the code believe it could be an effective tool for law enforcement to identify bad actors. They point to several notorious mass shootings which were funded with credit cards.
Two months before his 2012 attack on a Colorado theater, the shooter charged over $9,000 in guns, ammunition, and tactical gear. The attack killed 12 people and wounded 70. In the two months leading up to his attack, which killed 12 people and injured 70, the shooter who terrorized a movie theater in Colorado charged more than $9,000 worth of guns, ammunition, and tactical gear on credit cards. The shooter that killed 59 people at the festival in Las Vegas last year charged nearly $95,000 for dozens of firearms.
The International Standards Organization’s leadership is responsible for financial services approved the application after a committee that included representatives of the major credit card companies disagreed. American Express said to CBS News that MCC codes were one of the many data points that helped them understand their merchants’ industries. We want to ensure that we meet our regulatory and fiduciary obligations and prevent illegal activity on our networks.
Amalgamated Bank, based in New York, began its efforts to create a tracking code for firearms and ammo sales as early as July 2021. After several mass shootings in the United States, where young men purchased high-powered guns with credit cards, they renewed their efforts.
Amalgamated, founded in 1912 by union workers, is the oldest socially responsible institution in America. Amalgamated Bank CEO Priscilla Brown said, “We must all do our part to prevent gun violence.” It can start with the illegal purchase of ammunition and guns. The new code allows us to comply with our obligation to report suspicious activities and illicit gun sales without blocking or preventing legal gun sales.
“This action is in response to the millions of Americans concerned about gun violence. We are proud that we led the broad coalition of shareholders, advocates, and elected representatives, achieving this historic result.” The International Standards Organization twice rejected Amalgamated Bank’s code creation request. CBS News reviewed documents that showed that employees of the credit card industry were members of an internal committee that recommended that the application be rejected.