Credit card companies should cease implementation of a new merchant category code for purchases at gun retail stores that would create a “list of gun buyers,” according to a letter sent yesterday by 21 state attorneys general including Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall.

Marshall and 20 other state attorneys general sent a letter yesterday to the chief executive officers of American Express, Mastercard and Visa to discourage the credit card companies from implementing a new merchant category code for gun retailers approved by the International Organization for Standardization last week.

“The new code will not protect public safety,” Marshall and 20 other state attorneys general wrote. “Categorizing the constitutionally protected right to purchase firearms unfairly singles out law-abiding merchants and consumers alike. First, efforts to track and monitor sales at gun stores would only result in vague and misleading information. This categorization would not recognize the difference, for example, between the purchase of a gun safe and a firearm. Nor would it capture firearm purchases made at department stores, resulting in arbitrarily disparate treatment of 'gun store' merchants and consumers.” 

Purposefully tracking this information can only result in its misuse, either unintentional or deliberate, according to the letter.

"Creating and tracking this data only matters if your institutions are considering using that information to take further, harmful action—like infringing upon consumer privacy, inhibiting constitutionally protected purchases by selectively restricting the use of your payment systems, or otherwise withholding your financial services from targeted 'disfavored' merchants,” the attorneys general wrote. “And generating a 'list of gun buyers' creates the obvious risk that law-abiding consumers’ information will be leaked, discovered, hacked, or otherwise obtained and misused by those who oppose Americans exercising their Second Amendment rights.”

Shannon Watts, the founder of Moms Demand Action, a pro-gun control advocacy group, said in a statement that these “new merchant codes will help banks and financial institutions track suspicious and potentially illegal gun purchases.”

The AGs added the new code would “chill the exercise of a constitutional right without any concomitant benefit.”

“Some supporters of this move have analogized it to the Suspicious Activity Reports required of financial institutions,” they stated. “That analogy fails; SARs are specifically required by law and came about through a considered balancing of public safety and personal privacy. The new code for gun stores is the result of transnational collusion between large corporations leveraging their market power to further their owners’ desired social outcomes. Activists pressured the ISO to adopt this policy as a means of circumventing and undermining the American legislative process.”

The letter was signed by the attorneys general of Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Wyoming and West Virginia.

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