Retail

GOP attorneys general call on credit card companies to drop plans for gun store code

Key Points
  • Visa, Mastercard and American Express are facing calls from Republican attorneys general not to move forward with plans to adopt a new code for gun retailers.
  • Gun rights groups say the code would undermine the constitutional rights of law-abiding people seeking to make legal gun purchases.
  • Visa, Mastercard and American Express have said the new code won't inhibit legal commerce.

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Fire arms are seen at the Bobâs Little Sport Gun Shop in the town of Glassboro, New Jersey, United States on May 26, 2022. 
Tayfun Coskun | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

Two dozen Republican attorneys general are urging VisaMasterCard, and American Express to drop their plans to adopt a new merchant category code for gun retailers, saying the move would infringe on consumers' privacy.

In a letter sent to the companies Tuesday, the attorneys general warn the credit card companies that they could face legal action if they move forward with the code adopted by the International Organization for Standardization.

"Categorizing the constitutionally protected right to purchase firearms unfairly singles out law-abiding merchants and consumers alike," said the letter, led by Tennessee Attorney General Jonathan Skrmetti and Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen.

"Be advised that we will marshal the full scope of our lawful authority to protect our citizens and consumers from unlawful attempts to undermine their constitutional rights," says the letter, which was first reported by The Wall Street Journal.

Visa, MasterCard and American Express did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

On Saturday, Senate Republicans sent a similar letter to the three credit card companies. The letter said the companies are "bowing to international and activist pressure," and that the codes are "the first step towards backdoor gun control on law abiding Americans."

The letters come after the credit card companies announced plans to start applying the new sales code to transactions made at gun stores. Gun law advocates have said such a code is a critical first step toward giving banks and credit card companies the tools they need to recognize dangerous firearm purchasing trends — such as a domestic extremist building up an arsenal — and report them to law enforcement.

A merchant category code indicates the types of services or goods sold to consumers. Previously, gun store sales were categorized as "general merchandise."

Visa, MasterCard and American Express have previously said the new codes won't inhibit legal commerce.

"A fundamental principle for Visa is protecting all legal commerce throughout our network and around the world and upholding the privacy of cardholders who choose to use Visa," Visa said in a statement last week. "That has always been our commitment, and it will not change with ISO's decision."