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September 14, 2022

Gun Control Reveals Merchant Code is Stepping Stone to Watchlists and Bans

By Larry Keane

Gun control groups are pulling back the curtain to reveal that their plan to add a firearm and ammunition-specific Merchant Category Code (MCC) for gun retailers isn’t about tracking guns. It’s about tracking you.

Andrew Ross Sorkin, a New York Times columnist who proposed this idea years ago, penned a column outlining the “next steps.” That revealed that the pressure campaign by federal lawmakers, state attorneys general, state lawmakers and activist banks on the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) to create a unique MCC for gun retailers was just the beginning. It was never about gathering data to aide law enforcement. It is, and always has been, a concerted effort to pressure credit card companies to deny lawful purchases of firearms and put every single gun purchaser on a watchlist.

Since the federal government is forbidden by law from creating and maintaining a searchable database of gun owners, this task is being outsourced to private industry.

An international body of unelected bureaucrats, not accountable to the American public, is setting the conditions that will allow credit card companies to track, categorize and report “suspicious” purchases to law enforcement. This is the definition of an Orwellian society.

How We Got Here

Sorkin proposed the idea of cutting off gun purchases by throttling the use of credit cards in 2018, when he published a column titled, How Banks Could Control Gun Sales If Washington Won’t.” NSSF warned then of the dangerousness of this proposal. Sorkin’s idea is that enough financial pressure could be applied to credit card giants to deny lawful gun sales. Swipe, insert chip or tap just simply wouldn’t work for those attempting to legally purchase a firearm or ammunition.

This idea was backed by gun control front-woman Shannon Watts. Antigun politicians like U.S. Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and U.S. Rep. Jennifer Wexton (D-Va.) who introduced legislation that would require the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCen) to give guidance to banks so they can report “suspicious financial activity.” The bill is fraught with civil liberty violations and not just those freedoms protected by the Second Amendment. Privacy rights – specifically those related to finances – would go by the wayside.

Amalgamated Bank, a “socially-responsible” bank, pressured the ISO for the specific MCC to categorize firearm retailers. That’s the same bank that refuses to do business to anyone in the gun industry but bankrolls the Democratic National Committee and Political Action Committees including Biden-Harris Democrats, Ready for Hillary (which is Hillary Clinton’s Super PAC), Sen Elizabeth Warren’s (D-Mass.) Warren Democrats and U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) PAC, among others.

How It Works

The new MCC would apply to firearm retailers sales where the customer uses a credit card to pay. The code would allow credit card giants to monitor transactions at firearm retailers. In other words, someone buying new waders, boots, bibs, decoys, calls, bags, a shotgun and ammunition would all be specifically coded in a total lump sum the credit card companies could examine. The credit card giants wouldn’t be able to peer into the shopping basket to see that of the thousands of dollars someone might spend at the beginning of a hunting season would be mostly for gear, only a large purchase totaling thousands of dollars. That could raise a flag as a “suspicious” purchase. They could deny the transaction. They would report the transaction to law enforcement and a law-abiding gun owner could be put on a watchlist, like the terrorist watchlist or the government’s “No Fly” list. They could expect a visit from law enforcement asking them about their purchase, or attempted purchase.

How They Want It To Work

That’s just the beginning. Sorkin detailed plans to snap the door closed. Credit card giants need to do more than adopt the code, Sorkin said they need to enforce it. That would require the credit card companies forcing sporting goods stores like Academy to ring up gun and ammunition separately at the gun counter and utilize the gun store MCC. Sorkin also wants payment processors to develop software algorithms that would automatically flag “suspicious” purchases. Those looking for a definition of what would be “suspicious” should be wary that Amalgamated Bank is already working on this. Banks, if Sorkin has his way, would be the arbiters of approving or denying the purchase.

That’s putting unelected bureaucrats in control of Second Amendment freedoms. Antigun billionaire Michael Bloomberg’s Everytown for Gun Safety is heralding the move they say would prevent “… an extremist building an arsenal.” It could also prevent law-abiding gun owners from purchasing a handgun to protect themselves. Giffords gun control group tweeted, “Next steps: We’ll work with @Visa, @Mastercard, & @AmericanExpress to ensure bad actors are not exploiting our nation’s financial system to carry out mass shootings and illicitly traffic firearms.” Since Giffords’ goal is to ban guns, “bad actors” would seem to include every lawful gun purchaser. Brady United, another gun control group, also glommed onto the “bad actors” descriptor, lumping all gun purchasers as potential criminals.

This assault on privacy and Second Amendment rights isn’t through. NSSF will work with Congress, state legislatures and attorneys general to battle back and protect the industry and those it serves. This new gun store MCC will not protect America from criminals but it does serve the demands of gun control zealots to chill and then kill lawful gun ownership in America.

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Tags: Andrew Ross Sorkin International Organization for Standardization Merchant Category Codes

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