Credit card companies issue sales codes that track sales at gun stores

Credit card companies issue sales codes that track sales at gun stores

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Under a new California law, credit card networks such as Visa and Mastercard will issue banks special sales codes that can be used to track sales at gun stores.

Financial institutions can use the codes to identify fraud, money laundering, or unusual purchasing patterns that are reported as suspicious to the U.S. Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network.

Legislators in Colorado and New York followed California’s lead, but the same laws banned the codes’ use in Georgia, Iowa, Tennessee and Wyoming.

The laws have divided state capitals along familiar party lines, highlighting one of the country’s newest gun policy debates.

Some Democratic lawmakers and gun control activists hope the new law will prevent mass shootings and other crimes and help law enforcement track suspicious gun purchases.

But Republican lawmakers and gun rights advocates believe it could raise suspicions among innocent gun buyers. Seventeen GOP states have passed measures in the past 16 months banning or restricting gun-store codes.

Last week, US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy said gun violence is a public health crisis, citing more than 48,000 deaths in 2022. The National Rifle Association immediately criticized him.

States are lining up for a showdown over different gun policies. On July 4, Republican-led Louisiana will become the 29th state to allow residents to carry concealed weapons without a permit.

Meanwhile, the Democratic state of New Mexico this year implemented a seven-day waiting period for gun purchases before a federal background check.

States have also responded differently to recent mass shootings. In Democratic-leaning Maine, where an Army reservist killed 18 people and wounded 13 others, the legislature passed new gun restrictions. In Republican-leaning Iowa and Tennessee, legislatures have taken steps to allow more trained teachers to bring guns into classrooms after school shootings.

The legislation, which focuses on category codes for gun shops, was passed after the Geneva-based International Organization for Standardization established thousands of voluntary standards for various sectors, including category codes for everything from bakeries to boat dealers and bookstores.

Credit card networks distribute these category lists to banks and assign specific codes to the companies they do business with.

According to Dan Eldridge, owner of Maxon Shooter’s Supplies in a Chicago suburb, the trade code could lead to more people buying guns with cash instead of credit cards, thereby protecting their privacy.

Jason Schultz, a Republican state senator from Iowa, feared that federal agents could gain access to financial institution records of gun store purchases and then raid gun owners’ homes and violate their Second Amendment rights.