Major payment processing companies Visa Inc., MasterCard Inc., and Discover Inc. announced Thursday they have paused their work on a new code for purchases made at gun stores.
The move comes as Discover was set to become the first financial institution to implement the Merchant Category Code (MCC) for gun retailers next month—an effort that proponents argued would help law enforcement in probing gun-related crimes. As critics pointed out, however, the code would not indicate what was purchased at the retailer.
In a statement to Fox Business, MasterCard said the pause on the new MCC comes as it’s being challenged by several state legislatures.
"Today, there are bills advancing in several states related to the use of this new code. If passed, the result will be an inconsistency in how this ISO standard could be applied by merchants, issuers, acquirers and networks," said Seth Eisen, senior vice president of communications for Mastercard. "It’s for that reason that we have decided to pause work on the implementation of the firearms-specific MCC."
A spokesperson for Visa also pointed to the "significant confusion and legal uncertainty in the payments ecosystem" as the reason for its pause.
NSSF, The Firearm Industry Trade Association, said it was “encouraged” by the announcement but reminded Americans the “pause” is not an abandonment of the codes.
“NSSF is committed to ensuring that these specific MCCs not be used at all as they have the potential for exploitation of customer privacy and denial of services by politically-motivated activists,” NSSF said. “These codes were the product of Amalgamated Bank and Andrew Ross Sorkin to specifically track the lawful purchases of firearms and ammunition by law-abiding Americans.
“In reality, it is just the first step, by the admission of these two parties, to isolating and eventually denying the exercise of a Constitutional right by those who oppose lawful firearm ownership,” the statement added. “NSSF will continue to work with state legislators and Congress to put an end to this blatantly discriminatory practice of using private enterprise to construct a back-door firearm registry."