Visa, Mastercard stop tracking gun store purchases

Visa and Mastercard have reversed their decision to begin categorizing purchases at gun stores, a major victory for conservative groups and Second Amendment advocates who felt that tracking gun store purchases would inadvertently discriminate against illegal firearms purchases.

The move is a setback for gun control groups. They say categorizing credit and debit card purchases can help authorities spot potential red flags, such as serious ammunition purchases, before a mass shooting occurs.

Gun sales in the US
NEW JERSEY, USA – MAY 26: Firearms are seen at Bob’s Little Sport Gun Store on May 26, 2022 in Glassboro, New Jersey, United States.

Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

After Visa and Mastercard announced plans to introduce a separate merchant category code for gun store purchases, the payment networks faced significant pushback from the gun lobby as well as conservative politicians. A group of 24 GOP state attorneys general has written to payment networks, threatening legal action against them if they move forward with their plans.

Also, several state legislatures have bills to ban tracking purchases at gun stores. This would have made it difficult for Visa and Mastercard to implement the categorization.

In a statement, Visa indicated that the legal pushback was partly the reason for its delay in implementation.

“Currently, there is considerable confusion and legal uncertainty in the payments ecosystem, and the state’s actions violate global standards,” the company said.

Visa and Mastercard said the gun store’s categorization was a decision beyond their control. The International Organization for Standardization, known as ISO, is the group that classifies trade codes, and Visa and Mastercard have just followed their decision, the companies said. Gun control advocates supported the change to ISO, not Visa and Mastercard.

Visa and Mastercard’s plan would not control private gun purchases. This would separate gun store purchases as a separate category.

But not all large purchases at a gun store are red flags. For example, buying a gun safe that costs several thousand dollars would be considered a large purchase at a gun store, even though a safe is considered a responsible tool for gun ownership and has nothing to do with potential mass shootings.

Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen, who led the 24-state GOP group that has pressed Visa and Mastercard, said in a statement: “Visa and Mastercard came to the right conclusion. However, they cannot ‘pause’ this plan — they must end it.”

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