Two dozen state attorneys general sent a letter to the CEOs of major credit card companies warning them of the legality of implementing a new code identifying purchases at gun stores.
Directed by Tennessee and Montana, the attorneys general explained to the leaders of Visa, MasterCard and American Express that specific Merchant Category Codes (MCCs) that indicate transactions at gun stores could violate state consumer protection laws.
“Therefore, we share our concerns and ask that you take immediate action to comply with our consumer protection laws and respect the constitutional rights of all Americans,” the attorneys general wrote. “The new code will not protect public safety. Categorizing the constitutionally protected right Buying firearms unfairly sets both dealers and consumers who obey the law.”
HOUSE REPUBLICANS DEMAND RESPONSES IF CREDIT CARD COMPANIES ARE PRESSED TO TRACKING GUN PURCHASES
If credit card companies start using the gun store-specific code for purchases, the attorneys general said they fear it will create an unofficial “list of gun buyers” — and could lead to their private information is leaked. The state AGs also argue that the code “would only result in vague and misleading information” because it would not differentiate between the types of purchases made in a store.
“Deliberately tracking this information can only lead to misuse, either unintentionally or intentionally,” they wrote. “Creating and tracking this data is only relevant if your institutions consider using that information to take further, harmful actions, such as violating consumer privacy, prohibiting constitutionally protected purchases by selectively using your restrict payment systems, or otherwise withhold your financial services from targeted “disapproved” merchants.”
Tuesday’s letter follows a letter House Republicans sent to the same CEOs last week raising similar concerns.
Credit card companies initially opposed the International Organization for Standardization’s plan to create the gun store-specific code, rejecting a similar plan last year, stating they “believe that asking payment networks to serve as a moral authority in deciding which whether or not legal goods can be purchased sets a dangerous precedent.”
Montana Attorney General Knudsen taunted the credit card companies for their turnaround in rejecting the plan.
“It is extremely disappointing to see credit card companies give in to pressure from international agencies and take this measure that will do nothing to improve public safety,” Knudsen said in a statement. “Instead, it invites potential future invasions of consumer privacy and further coordination between businesses and government agencies to erode Americans’ fundamental right to keep and bear arms.”
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In a separate letter on Thursday, Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, RW. Va., asked the CEOs of credit card companies to reconsider their support for the MCC change and urged them to answer several questions if they decided to make the changes.
“The implementation of new trade codes for the purchase of firearms sends a worrying signal to legal sellers and buyers of firearms that their purchases can be monitored, disclosed or even prevented,” Capito writes. “This raises serious constitutional concerns and sets a disturbing precedent in which gun owners may be hindered in their free exercise of constitutional rights for fear of retaliation or even the threat of invasion of their privacy. Visa, Mastercard, and American Express are not legal under any circumstances. commitment to implement this new MCC and I urge you to change course immediately.”