A Swiss-based international standards organization, bowing to a request from American anti-gun groups, has voted to establish a special category code for tracking gun and ammo sales handled via credit card processors. 

The Geneva-based International Organization for Standardization approved the request for new four-digit merchant category codes, or MCCs, last week for firearm and ammunition sales and sellers. The request originated from Amalgamated Bank, a New York-headquartered "socially responsible bank" with just six branches – all in deep-blue cities – and came with the support of noted anti-2A groups, Guns Down America and the Giffords Law Center. Amalgamated is a well-known "activist bank" that advocates to "advance economic, social, racial and environmental justice utilizing the tools of finance." A previous request by the group in 2021 had been denied. 

A statement issued by Amalgamated stressed the new MCC will be "key to creating new tools that all financial institutions must now use to begin detecting and reporting suspicious activity associated with gun trafficking and mass shootings to the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, the government agency charged with safeguarding the financial system from illicit use."

Better known as FinCEN, the bureau referenced by Amalgamated is part of the U.S. Treasury Department and, beefed up by the Patriot Act, works closely to refer banking activities to federal law enforcement agencies such as the ATF, DEA, FBI, and IRS for review.

Besides the push from Amalgamated and their anti-gun cohorts, U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and a dozen other Dems in Congress last week demanded American Express, Mastercard, and Visa support a move towards such a merchant category code to specially mark the American gun industry and licensed dealers. That call was endorsed by Amalgamated, Giffords, and Bloomberg's Everytown gun control group.

"Banks should report dangerous warning signs to law enforcement when extremists are quickly building up massive stockpiles of guns, but that first requires ensuring gun store transactions have a unique identifier,” said John Feinblatt, president of Everytown, in a statement issued by Warren's office.

However, neither Everytown nor the letter went on to illustrate just what sort of legal gun buying activity would be "dangerous," an arbitrary and ephemeral line that could shift drastically – and almost overnight with social pressure.

Would a first-time gun sale on an account be listed as dangerous or out of the ordinary?

Would the purchase of an item over $1,000 – a figure not hard when considering even a mid-shelf firearm or a modest amount of ammo these days considering runaway inflation – trigger a warning?

Would purchasing two or more guns in a month, not uncommon especially around Christmas, lead to a red flag in the system?

Would merchants that see a spike in sales in tune with periodic changes such as hunting season be placed under scrutiny? 

No one is saying. 

Further, it is not inconceivable that, following a high-profile crime in which a firearm is used, credit card processors may back away from servicing lawful transactions in the guns and ammo MCC codes, essentially cutting off the already highly regulated and Constitutionally-protected firearms industry from most of the banking system in a stroke, leaving it to rely on a cash-only model such as that used for the state-legal cannabis industry. 
 

"The ultimate goal of those championing the application of these codes is to deny firearm and ammunition purchases through the use of credit cards." –Mark Oliva, NSSF.


The trade group for the American firearms industry and its 9,000 licensed dealers – many of them small family-owned shops – told Guns.com they weren't sure how tracking the purchasing of legal guns with credit cards stops illegal gun sales, but that's likely the straw man argument for something more restrictions. 

"The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) approval to create Merchant Category Codes for firearm and ammunition purchases is flawed on its premise," said Mark Oliva, director of public affairs for the National Shooting Sports Foundation. "Those authorities that have been clamoring for these codes claim this will assist law enforcement to uncover suspect purchases without specific criteria to define what would be considered suspicious.

"This decision chills the free exercise of Constitutionally protected rights and does nothing to assist law enforcement with crime prevention or holding criminals accountable. The Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics consistently shows in their own reporting that 90 percent of felons convicted of their crimes involving a firearm admit they illegally obtain those guns through theft or trading on the black market. Attaching codes specific to firearm and ammunition purchases casts a dark pall by gun control advocates who are only interested in disarming lawful gun owners. 
 
"The ultimate goal of those championing the application of these codes is to deny firearm and ammunition purchases through the use of credit cards. Credit card companies have previously publicly resisted this because they understand it is not in their interest to monitor lawful private purchases," said Oliva.

As for the anti-gun groups that pushed for the change, they are itching to help define how they are used. 

"Creating a dedicated merchant category code for gun sales is only the first step, though, and we look forward to working with Visa, Mastercard, and American Express to ensure swift efforts to ensure uniform and comprehensive use of this new code," said Adam Skaggs, chief counsel and policy director for the Giffords Law Center. 

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