Visa Inc. recently noted that transaction histories will now clearly note gun sales. It’s a decision that, perhaps, will assist investigators in identifying abnormal sales spikes and keep these purchases from slipping under their radar. The two biggest names in credit, MasterCard and American Express, enthusiastically embraced the change. The decision was made in response to the International Standards Organization’s announcement on September 9 that retailers of firearms and ammunition would be reclassified with their own commerce codes. The International Standards Organization is a global organization that creates standards for the financial services sector.
Previously, in a kind of a recreational gray area, these sales were mixed with “general merchandise” or “miscellaneous” sales or labeled under “sporting good stores.” The four-digit identifier will now specifically describe the customer’s transaction for sales of firearms and ammunition.
Many of the worst mass shooting incidents in the country, including those in Aurora, Orlando, San Bernardino, and Las Vegas, were connected electronic payments for firearms and ammunition, claims Guns Down America, a national organization dedicated to preventing gun violence and advocating for legislation to restrict gun sales, according to a report on Mashable.
According to the Gun Violence Archive, there have been 425 mass shootings and more than 39,000 gun-related fatalities in the United States just in 2022. Many proponents of gun control believe that the new categorization guidelines will make it much simpler to record and monitor questionable gun purchases and contribute to a decrease in gun crime. Guns Down America, Brady United, Amalgamated Bank, and New Yorkers Against Gun Violence were part of the organizations that helped bring about the ruling.
“Credit card companies have rules to stop fraud and human trafficking. This common-sense decision means the same rules will apply to guns, making it easier to stop illegal firearms-related activity,” said Igor Volsky, Founder and Executive Director of Guns Down America.
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This is good news for Congressional Democrats too. In a letter to American Express CEO Stephen Squeri, Senator Elizabeth Warren and Representative Madeline Dean pleaded with him to support the establishment of a new merchant category code for gun merchants. An application to establish such routes for supervision presented by Amalgamated Bank in 2021 was previously blocked. The over 9,000 independent U.S. gun merchants who do not already have a unique merchant code for their sector appear to be under increased scrutiny now that the industry as a whole is headed in that direction.
“We could identify and detect where there may be gun sales that are intended for black markets, where we see patterns of gun purchases being made in multiple gun shops. We could see the patterns of behavior that would indicate to us that there is something not right here,” explained Amalgamated Bank CEO Priscilla Sims Brown, and added, “We have an obligation to address crime that is being facilitated through our system.”
According to the Giffords Law Center, while it is required by federal law, private dealers are exempt from this requirement, and the information is not stored in any kind of central federal database. Instead, approved stores must preserve a record of all gun purchases until they close their doors. Furthermore, in-state background checks must follow a set of non-standardized rules, and background checks for gun sales must be destroyed after 24 hours.