Advocates of the move say the move will help track suspicious increases in arms sales that could be a precursor to mass shootings.
Visa Inc says it will implement a new merchant class code that identifies transactions at gun stores in the United States.
Saturday’s announcement from the world’s largest payment processor represented a major win for activists who argued that separately categorizing gun sales would help better track suspicious firearm purchases that could be a precursor to a mass shooting.
This came a day after the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) approved the creation of the new code.
“Following ISO’s decision to create a new merchant class code, Visa will continue the next steps, while ensuring that all legal commerce on the Visa network is protected in accordance with our longstanding rules,” Visa said in a statement.
Credit card processors use codes to identify sales by sector such as groceries, restaurants, and more. Until Friday, gun store sales were considered a “public good.”
The new code will help monitors keep track of where an individual is spending money, but it won’t show which specific items have been purchased.
Mastercard Inc also said it will implement the new code.
Following Friday’s ISO approval, Mastercard Inc said, “We now turn our focus to how merchants and their banks implement it, as we continue to support legal purchases on our network while protecting the privacy and decisions of individual cardholders.”
American Express previously said that when ISO develops new code, the company will work with third-party processors and partners on the implementation.
Arms control advocates have been lobbying ISO and banks to adopt this code.
They cited examples such as the mass shooting at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida, where 49 people were killed after an attacker opened fire in 2016. A week before that attack, the shooter had used credit cards to purchase $26,000 worth of weapons and ammunition, including: That’s purchases from a retail gun retailer.
“When you buy an airline ticket or pay for your groceries, your credit card company has a special code for these retailers. New York City Mayor Eric Adams, a former police captain who blames the proliferation of guns for the deadly violence in his city, said,” It makes sense that we have the same policies in place with regard to arms and ammunition depots.”
Two of the largest public pension funds in the United States, in California and New York, have also submitted shareholder resolutions asking payment companies to intervene in the issue.
However, gun advocates argue that tracking sales at gun stores would unfairly target legal gun purchases, since dealer codes only track the type of merchant where a credit or debit card is used, not actual items purchased.
Selling a gun safe, worth thousands of dollars and an item that is part of responsible gun ownership, can be considered just a big purchase at a gun store.
“The [industry’s] Lars Dalside, a spokesman for the National Rifle Association, said the decision to create a firearms law is nothing more than a capitulation to anti-gun politicians and activists bent on undermining the rights of law-abiding Americans one treatment at a time.
And this year’s mass shootings, including at an elementary school in Texas that killed 19 children and two teachers, have fueled the long-running American debate over gun control.
US President Joe Biden has called on Congress to issue a ban on assault weapons in addition to $37 billion in crime prevention programs, with $13 billion to hire and train an additional 100,000 police officers over the next five years.