Payment giants to better track gun sales

Payment giants Visa, Mastercard and American Express will, under pressure from California and New York attorneys general, implement a new merchant code to improve tracking of firearms purchases and sales in the USA.

A separate market category for firearms

The decision by Visa, Mastercard and American Express had been awaited by California Attorney General Rob Bonta, New York Attorney General Letitia James, as well as various players campaigning for better control of gun sales, such as the American bank Amalgamated and the California teachers' pension fund.

Last week, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), which is responsible for setting payment standards, approved the creation of a new ISO code to make firearms a separate market category.

Until now, gun stores in the USA could not be specifically identified by the payment giants, as they belonged to a broad category of specialist sellers. From now on, every sale made in one of these stores, whether for weapons or ammunition, can be identified as such.


A controversial decision

This decision, hailed in particular by elected Democrats who see it as an additional means of combating mass killings, is strongly contested by some gun advocates and lobbyists.

According to the latter, the creation of a separate market category for firearms threatens " a fundamental constitutional right ", as National Rifle Association spokesman Lars Dalseide claims.

According to him, " to imply that gun purchases are suspect demonstrates a clear bias on the part of these attorneys general," reports the media outlet Siècle Digital.



Gun rights advocates also point to potential misjudgments. As the merchant code does not precisely indicate the type of item purchased, but only the category of merchant, there is a risk that certain purchases will wrongly be subject to increased surveillance. In particular, they cite the example of a gun safe purchase, whose high price may attract the attention of payment giants even though it is not a weapon.

For their part, gun control advocates welcome the creation of this specific merchant code. Admittedly, the system is imperfect and does not make it possible to precisely identify the nature of a purchase made from a gunsmith, but in their view it is another step forward in the fight against mass shootings and gun violence.

" When you buy an airline ticket or pay for groceries, your credit card company has a special code for those retailers. It's just common sense that we have the same policies in place for gun and ammunition stores," said New York City Mayor Eric Adams, as reported by Crumpe media.



It remains to be seen how the various financial institutions will deal with this new merchant code, and in which cases Visa, Mastercard and American Express will be required to report certain transactions to the authorities.