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Visa, MasterCard stop tracking gun store purchases

Visa and MasterCard have paused their decision to begin classifying purchases at gun stores, a significant win for conservative groups and Second Amendment advocates who fear tracking gun store purchases would inadvertently discriminate against legal firearms purchases.

The move is a blow to gun control groups. They say classifying credit and debit card purchases could help authorities spot potential red flags — such as significant ammunition purchases — before a mass shooting.

Gun sales in the United States

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

Typhoon Koskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

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

There are also bills pending in several state legislatures that would ban the tracking of gun store purchases. This would have made it more difficult for Visa and MasterCard to implement categorization.

In a statement, Visa indicated that legal pushback was partly the reason it paused implementation.

“There is now significant confusion and legal uncertainty in the payments ecosystem, and state actions undermine the intent of global standards,” the company said.

Visa and MasterCard said the classification of gun stores was a decision beyond their control. The International Organization for Standardization, better known as ISO, is the group that classifies merchant codes, and Visa and MasterCard are following their decisions, the companies said. Gun control advocates lobbied for changes not to Visa and MasterCard, but to ISO.

Visa and MasterCard plans did not track individual gun purchases. It would have broken off gun store purchases as a separate category.

But not all big purchases at gun stores should be considered red flags. For example, the purchase of a gun safe, which costs several thousand dollars, would be seen as a major purchase at a gun store even though the safe is considered a responsible tool in gun ownership and unrelated to potential mass shootings.

Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen, who leads the 24-state GOP group lobbying Visa and MasterCard, said in a statement that “Visa and MasterCard made the right decision. However, they should not just ‘pause’ implementation of this plan. -They should Should definitely end.”

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