Few things warm my heart more than watching the air coming out of gun control advocates’ celebratory balloons. I can’t say the recent news is a win for the Second Amendment, but it certainly isn’t a loss. Credit card companies have “paused” the implementation of their plans for a new merchant category code (MCC) that would essentially create a backdoor tracking registry of people purchasing firearms, ammunition, and related items.
The new MCC was not going to track specific items; it sought to create a log of people making purchases at gun stores and reporting the transactions to the feds as “suspicious” activities. Thankfully, due to public and political pressure, the politicized financial institutions behind the scheme have backed off implementation. However, the mere attempt at backdoor gun control demonstrates just how far the anti-gunners will go to trample our Second Amendment rights.
The threat of tracking had been rumored for a number of months, beginning after the MCC code was rolled out last year by the International Standards Organization (ISO). Then, in February, Discover announced it would implement a new merchant category code to be used to identify transactions with firearms dealers. Discover also boasted that its competitors were planning to do the same thing. Can you say “collusion”?
Intense lobbying by rabid gun control politicians and Amalgamated Bank — an institution known for using financial leverage to promote sustainable organizations, progressive causes, and social justice — was the main impetus for the ISO’s action.
Naturally, gun control advocates celebrated the ISO’s effort, believing it was a way to create a backdoor registry, stigmatize gun owners, and decrease sales at establishments selling firearms. Last November, one of the CEOs pushing for the tracking code was quoted as saying, “Banks are developing technology to identify potential mass shooters.”
I wonder what the true effect would have been — driving sales underground or many gun owners adopting a cash-only purchase policy…?
Here was the plan for those still opting to use their credit card:
“‘Detection scenarios’ are in the works. When triggered, it will prompt banks to file a Suspicious Activity Report to the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network.” ~Amalgamated Bank Chief Executive Officer Priscilla Sims Brown
That’s right, a legal purchase of unknow items, and your credit card processor would have reported you for a potential financial crime! As one person put it on social media, “I wonder what President Bident had in mind for the 80,000 new IRS agents…”
Fortunately, gun owners — supporters of the Second Amendment — pushed back and not just a little bit. However, the heavy lifting really came from the state-level politicians who proposed new laws that would have prohibited the use of the new merchant code in their state.
The scheme was doomed to fail anyway. Simply because a future mass shooter bought a gun or two in the days or weeks leading up to their crime would not be enough to say every purchase is suspicious or worthy of a suspicious activity report for a financial crime. And would the response time for the investigation have been enough to prevent the next heinous act? How would the detection scenarios have prevented the next tragic crime?
Discover was one of the most, if not the most, vocal credit card processors, in my opinion, about instituting the new tracking. Discover also lead in communicating the collapse of the scheme. According to communications from Discover, the new proposed merchant code (MCC 5723) has been pulled from its upcoming software update for merchant processing systems.
The feckless responses from credit card processors were no more impressive:
“Our rules require our customers to conduct lawful activity where they are licensed to use our brands. The ISO’s decision to create a firearms-related merchant category code (MCC) does not change that.”
“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. It’s for that reason that we have decided to pause work on the implementation of the firearms-specific MCC.”
“Banks should report dangerous warning signs to law enforcement when extremists are quickly building up massive stockpiles of guns, but that first requires ensuring gun store transactions have a unique identifier,” urged John Feinblatt, president of Everytown for Gun Safety.
The merchant code was flawed from its genus. The code did not track purchases of particular items, just the business you purchased the items from. A purchase of archery equipment, fishing tackle, or a new boat would be tracked the same as a new shotgun or AR-15 when purchased from a “gun store.” A collectible 1903 Colt, Single Action Army, or Pennsylvania rifle (muzzleloader) would have been treated the same an AR-15.
Pro-gun Politicians’ Response
The true death knell for the MCC came from the response to the legislation brewing in multiple states. The legislation included Florida’s SB 214, which promised to criminalize the use of firearms-specific merchant category codes by financial institutions, and West Virginia’s HB 2004, which prohibited discrimination against businesses assigned the firearms MCC. HB2004 also protects information related to such transactions.
Fortunately for gun owners, the pressure of pro-gun politicians trumped the efforts of the anti-gun politicians and gun control groups championing the MCC. Given the flawed nature of the political scheme, uneven application, and non-specific tracking of the items purchased, it is hard to imagine any other outcome.
Montana was one of almost half of the states in the nation opposing the new merchant code. As a result of these efforts, “Visa, Mastercard, and Discover came to the correct conclusion,” according to Attorney General Austin Knudsen of Montana.
Attorney General Knudsen continued (and this is why I started by saying this pause wasn’t a win for the Second Amendment):
“They shouldn’t just ‘pause’ their implementation of this plan—they should end it definitively. American Express should do the same. This measure will do nothing to improve public safety while invading consumer privacy and inviting coordination between corporations and government agencies to erode Americans’ fundamental right to keep and bear arms.”
Pro-gun politicians and states have proven there will be significant opposition to the firearm-tracking MCC, but you can be assured the anti-gunners will not rest. Their next move will likely be to compel the change through legislation, causing a fight in the courts and the realm of public opinion. Social justice groups and financial institutions with a strong political slant against the protections enumerated in the Second Amendment will follow suit.
Elections matter. Vote wisely.