Visa pushes back over claims it’s tracking users’ gun purchases

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) says a new merchant code is “a big threat to Second Amendment rights.”
Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) says a new merchant code is “a big threat to second amendment rights.”
Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) says a new merchant code is “a big threat to second amendment rights.”
Published: Sep. 29, 2022 at 12:50 PM EDT
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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - “I think it’s dangerous,” said Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) in an interview with the Gray Washington News Bureau over the credit card companies unveiling merchant codes which could be used to track gun purchases.

Hawley says he strongly disagrees with the plans of Visa, Mastercard, and American Express to use a new merchant code to categorize gun purchases.

In a tweet on September 13, calling it a “big threat to Second Amendment rights.”

On the same day Hawley posted his tweet, he also sent a letter to credit card company CEOs asking them to reconsider.

“Unless they at some point wanted to interfere,” said Hawley. “We know that’s the case. We know there’s no real business reason for it because they haven’t ever done it.”

Previously, gun sales were categorized under merchant codes as general or miscellaneous.

Merchant codes already exist for a wide range of products and services including beauty salons, bowling alleys, and bakeries.

The Gray Washington News Bureau reached out to Visa for comment, and was sent a link to a blog post titled “Protecting Legal Commerce.”

In it, Visa writes the new merchant code is from a global standards-setting organization that established the code for “gun and ammunition stores.”

Visa says in part: “Many misunderstood,”... that the company was, “advocating the use of the code to track gun sales as a potential tool in combatting gun violence.”

Gun control advocates say the code is an opportunity for the financial sector to do its part in preventing gun tragedies.

“Everybody in the country, every industry in the country has a role to play in helping to eliminate this problem,” said Nick Suplina, Senior Vice President for Law and Policy at Everytown for Gun Safety, the country’s largest gun violence prevention organization. “What this new merchant category can do, if implemented properly, is prevent tragedy like domestic terrorism and horrific acts of mass shootings and armed extremism.”

Gun control advocates say the 2016 Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida is an example.

A 2018 New York Times investigation found the gunman used six credit cards to buy two guns and thousands of rounds of ammunition before killing 49 people and injuring 53 others.

There could be more regulations in the future for credit card companies and banks in general. In mid-September, the CEO’s of America’s seven largest banks testified at length before key Congressional committees - the Senate Banking Committee and the House Financial Services Committee .