In the now-distant past, the top priorities for the Democrat Party reflected views held by many middle- and working-class Americans, and included health insurance, higher wages, and support for public education. That once moderate set of priorities has now morphed into an agenda more at home in a European socialist country than middle America.
Today’s Democrat Party is in love with abortion and at war with the Second Amendment.
With regard to both guns and abortion, Democrats often have employed direct means of accomplishing their goals of unlimited abortion and very limited Second Amendment rights – appropriations riders, legislation, and executive actions. But they also exhibit no hesitancy in using sneaky and indirect methods to get what they want.
In recent years, two of the Left’s favored tools with which to push their radical agenda are retirement funds and restrictions on financial institutions. Both avenues are being pursued currently as ways to limit Second Amendment rights.
Retirement funds, especially those into which members of favored liberal interest groups have paid dues for many years, control hundreds of billions of dollars, which can and are being invested to directly support liberal causes.
Also, and more cleverly, Democrats have seized on the fact that individuals who manage these vast pools of money can in turn pressure financial institutions, including credit card companies, to do their bidding. And, when individuals wielding that power over public employee pension funds are government officials, such as New York City Comptroller Brad Lander, their wishes can be especially persuasive.
Gun control has become a primary arena in which the Left is using control of large employee pension funds to push its political agenda. Their tactics in this regard are reminiscent of an Obama-era plan known as “Operation Choke Point.”
“Choke Point” employed the federal regulatory power over financial institutions to prevent firearms retailers from maintaining business accounts essential for them to engage in lawful business transactions at financial institutions regulated by the FDIC (Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation) and the OCC (Office of the Comptroller of the Currency). This program finally was halted in 2017, in one of the few instances when Republicans controlled the Congress and actually used their power to stop such an abuse of regulatory power.
Partially as a result of having their hand slapped in Operation Choke Point, Democrats in recent years have turned to more indirect means of accomplishing the same goal of limiting the ability of lawful firearms retailers to operate effectively in the marketplace.
The Left’s most recent effort in this gun-control strategy starts with a little-known organization headquartered in Switzerland (a country that used to be but no longer is the world’s staunchest protector of firearms rights), the ISO (International Organization for Standardization). The ISO establishes “merchant category codes” (MCCs) for credit card transactions, which can then be used to track purchases of particular items.
If there were MCCs for every credit card transaction involving the sale of a gun or ammunition, then – Presto! – companies and governments would have a tool by which to easily track and database such transactions.
This strategy was set out earlier this month in letters from leading Democrat members of Congress to the top three credit card companies – American Express, Visa, and Mastercard – urging them to pressure ISO to create a new MCC for guns and ammunition sales.
The ISO and the credit card companies have in the past resisted such a demand, but last week they caved to mounting political and financial pressures and agreed to create and start using a new MCC to identify gun and ammunition sales.
While those supporting this move, including the authors of the congressional letters to the credit card companies, claim it will be employed only to counter “terrorism” and facilitate tracking of “suspicious activities,” the history of such databasing efforts tells a very different story. The tracking is perfectly suited to, and in fact will be used to intimidate and ultimately limit the lawful exercise of Americans’ Second Amendment rights.
If the GOP gains a congressional majority in the upcoming midterm elections, they should do to this program what they did five years ago in closing down Operation Choke Point. As always, however, the question with the Republican Party remains, “will it have the backbone?”
Bob Barr represented Georgia’s Seventh District in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1995 to 2003. He served as the United States Attorney in Atlanta from 1986 to 1990 and was an official with the CIA in the 1970s. He now practices law in Atlanta, Georgia and serves as head of Liberty Guard.