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Tipsheet

Credit Card Companies Have Found a New Way to Go After Gun Owners

AP Photo/Keith Srakocic, File

This week, two dozen Republican attorneys general warned three major credit card companies to not move forward with plans to add a new merchant code for gun-related purchases. 

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The attorneys general sent the letter to the CEOs of American Express, Visa and Mastercard. In the letter, the attorneys general describe how the new policy does not respect Americans’ Second Amendment rights.

As our respective States’ chief legal officers, we are tasked with protecting the constitutional rights of our citizens, defending our consumers from privacy intrusions and other abuses, and enforcing antitrust laws. Accordingly, we share our concerns and ask that you take immediate action to comport with our consumer protection laws and respect the constitutional rights of all Americans. 

Townhall covered last week how Visa announced that it will start separately categorizing sales made on their payment methods at gun shops. A report from the Associated Press described this as a “major win” for those in favor of gun control, claiming it will “help better track suspicious surges of gun sales that could be a prelude to a mass shooting.” Mastercard and American Express said they would categorize these types of sales as well.

The attorneys general outlined how this will not protect the public from gun violence. 

The new code will not protect public safety. Categorizing the constitutionally protected right to purchase firearms unfairly singles out law-abiding merchants and consumers alike. First, efforts to track and monitor sales at gun stores would only result in vague and misleading information. This categorization would not recognize the difference, for example, between the purchase of a gun safe and a firearm. Nor would it capture firearm purchases made at department stores, resulting in arbitrarily disparate treatment of “gun store” merchants and consumers. 

More importantly, purposefully tracking this information can only result in its misuse, either unintentional or deliberate. Creating and tracking this data only matters if your institutions are considering using that information to take further, harmful action—like infringing upon consumer privacy, inhibiting constitutionally protected purchases by selectively restricting the use of your payment systems, or otherwise withholding your financial services from targeted “disfavored” merchants. 

And generating a “list of gun buyers” creates the obvious risk that law-abiding consumers’ information will be leaked, discovered, hacked, or otherwise obtained and misused by those who oppose Americans exercising their Second Amendment rights.

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The attorneys general conclude the letter by telling the CEOs that they will “marshal the full scope of our lawful authority to protect our citizens and consumers from unlawful attempts to undermine their constitutional rights.”

Last week, Missouri GOP Sen. Josh Hawley, a Republican, sent a letter to the CEOs of Visa, American Express and Mastercard over the new policy. He detailed how it “attempts to undermine the Second Amendment’s protections” and that the policy is “ripe for abuse.” 

In 2019, Visa CEO Alfred Kelly told CNBC that it would continue to “facilitate” gun purchases as long as it's legal to do so. 

“We are guided by the federal laws in a country, and our job is to create and to facilitate fair and secure commerce,” Kelly told the outlet. The came after reports broke that payment platforms Square and PayPal do not allow their services to be used for gun sales.

Kelly added that lawmakers “need to do their job” when it comes to guns and that “if we start to get in the mode of being legislators it's’ a very slippery slope.”

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“We shouldn’t be determining what’s right or wrong in terms of people’s purchases,” he said at the time.

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