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Pension Officials Petition Credit Card Companies to Track Firearm Purchases

Pension officials in New York City and California have petitioned Visa, Mastercard and American Express to use their technology to track gun purchases, letters obtained by Reuters revealed.

NYC Comptroller Brad Lander petitioned Mastercard and American Express to add a “merchant category code,” a four-digit code attached to transactions that identifies what sort of transaction they are, specifically for gun purchases, Reuters reported. Lander was joined by a California State Teachers’ Retirement System portfolio manager in making a similar request to Visa, according to Reuters.

The letters, sent Aug. 29, noted that specialized businesses like bowling alleys had a unique merchant category code but that “banks and payment networks cannot readily identify sales made by standalone gun and ammunition retailers,” Reuters reported. A Mastercard representative told Reuters that the company supports “all legal purchases while protecting the privacy and decisions of individual cardholders.”

Credit card companies, banks and other payment processors use merchant category codes to determine fraud and other irregularities in a customer’s purchasing habits, according to CNBC. Priscilla Sims Brown, CEO of Amalgamated Bank, told CNBC that the financial industry had an obligation to use the tracking of gun sales to prevent violence.

Brown said that giving firearm stores a unique merchant category code would help the financial industry monitor “unusual” activity, such as a customer spending $1,000 at a firearms store and then receiving $1,000 from someone who is not allowed to own a gun, according to CNBC. Brown said that the shooting at a Las Vegas music festival in 2017 might have been prevented had financial institutions noted that a $90,000 spending spree prior to the shootings contained $26,000 on firearms and ammunition.

Amalgamated Bank petitioned the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), a standard-setting body in the financial world, in July 2021 to establish a merchant category code for firearms stores, but was denied twice, according to CBS. Visa, Mastercard and American Express employees were involved in pushback against the measure, according to documents obtained by CBS.

Previously, in an April 29, 2022 annual shareholder notice, Mastercard’s Board of Directors “unanimously” recommended shareholders vote down a proposal that would have mandated Mastercard develop a report on the use of its platform for transactions involving so-called “ghost guns.”  The proposal described ghost guns as kits for homemade firearms that require “no serial number, records, or background check.”

“In addition to the health and safety risk to society, gun violence has a negative financial effect both in the short and long term, as it suppresses productivity and economic activity, destabilizes communities, and reduces business confidence,” shareholders wrote in the proposal. The proposal only received support from 10% of shareholders who voted, according to Reuters.

American Express, Mastercard, Visa and the Office of the New York City Comptroller did not immediately respond to a Daily Caller News Foundation request for comment.

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