New efforts to track gun store sales using credit card data were criticized in recent letters signed by 101 Republican lawmakers and sent to the heads of Visa, Mastercard and American Express.
Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY) and dozens more Republicans asked the credit card executives how they will respond to an international body’s recent move to create a new “merchant category code” for firearms retailers.
The four-digit codes distinguishing various types of stores and services are created by the Geneva-based non-profit International Organization for Standardization, known as ISO. The codes can reveal what type of merchant was paid in a transaction, but not what was bought.
No such code had existed for firearms stores until New York-based Amalgamated Bank successfully lobbied ISO to create one, making it easier to track suspicious activity, according to Reuters.
The Republicans’ letter called ISO’s move an “unfortunate decision” and a “submission to the desires of liberal activists and politicians who seek to erode the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding American citizens.”
It also states that “there is no accepted, consistent, scientific, or legitimate” way the codes can distinguish a suspicious purchase from a not-suspicious one.
Republicans questioned what criteria the companies would use to “flag” suspicious transactions and whether customers will be notified of being flagged.
The lawmakers also asked the credit card executives to clarify their opinions of ISO’s decision. Two earlier requests to create the codes were denied after pushback from employees at U.S. credit card companies, according to CBS News.
Days before the codes were finally approved, Visa stated in a letter that “asking payment networks to serve as a moral authority by deciding which legal goods can or cannot be purchased sets a dangerous precedent,” CBS News reported.
In a statement after the codes were approved, Visa said it requires financial institutions to “process all legal transactions” and doesn’t allow legal purchases to be denied “based on which MCC they fall under.”