Consumer Information

Gun Control Reveals Merchant Code Is Steppingstone to Watchlists and Bans

National Shooting Sports Foundation Logo

Last week, The Shooter’s Log brought you the story of how banks and credit card processors are collaborating to create merchant codes specifically to track purchases made from retailers of guns and ammunition. Some feared the worst and others thought it was tantamount to making a mountain out of a molehill. It seems we were right to be concerned. The following is from the National Shooting Sports Foundation.

Gun control groups are pulling back the curtain to reveal that their plan to add a firearm and ammunition-specific Merchant Category Code (MCC) for gun retailers isn’t about tracking guns. It’s about tracking you.

National Shooting Sports Foundation Logo
The National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) is an American national trade association for the firearms industry

Andrew Ross Sorkin, a New York Times columnist who proposed this idea years ago, penned a column outlining the “next steps.” In the column, he revealed that the pressure campaign by federal lawmakers, state attorneys general, state lawmakers, and activist banks on the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) to create a unique MCC for gun retailers was just the beginning. It was never about gathering data to aid law enforcement. It is, and always has been, a concerted effort to pressure credit card companies to deny lawful purchases of firearms and put every single gun purchaser on a watchlist.

Since the federal government is forbidden by law from creating and maintaining a searchable database of gun owners, this task is being outsourced to private industry.

An international body of unelected bureaucrats, not accountable to the American public, is setting the conditions that will allow credit card companies to track, categorize and report “suspicious” purchases to law enforcement. This is the definition of an Orwellian society.

How We Got Here

Sorkin proposed the idea of cutting off gun purchases by throttling the use of credit cards in 2018, when he published a column titled, How Banks Could Control Gun Sales If Washington Won’t.” NSSF warned then of the dangerousness of this proposal. Sorkin’s idea is that enough financial pressure could be applied to credit card giants to deny lawful gun sales. Swipe, insert chip, or tap just simply wouldn’t work for those attempting to legally purchase a firearm or ammunition.

This idea was backed by gun control front-woman Shannon Watts. Antigun politicians like U.S. Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and U.S. Rep. Jennifer Wexton (D-Va.) who introduced legislation that would require the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCen) to give guidance to banks so they can report “suspicious financial activity.” The bill is fraught with civil liberty violations and not just those freedoms protected by the Second Amendment. Privacy rights — specifically those related to finances — would go by the wayside.

Amalgamated Bank, a “socially-responsible” bank, pressured the ISO for the specific MCC to categorize firearm retailers. That’s the same bank that refuses to do business to anyone in the gun industry but bankrolls the Democratic National Committee and Political Action Committees including Biden-Harris Democrats, Ready for Hillary (which is Hillary Clinton’s Super PAC), Sen Elizabeth Warren’s (D-Mass.) Warren Democrats and U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) PAC, among others.

How It Works

The new MCC would apply to firearm retailers’ sales where the customer uses a credit card to pay. The code would allow credit card giants to monitor transactions at firearm retailers. In other words, someone buying new waders, boots, bibs, decoys, calls, bags, a shotgun, and ammunition would all be specifically coded in a total lump sum the credit card companies could examine.

camping supplies - backpacks
It does not have to be guns and ammo. Simply purchasing some camping supplies could land you on a watchlist or earn you a knock at the door from law enforcement regarding your ‘suspicious’ purchase.

The credit card giants wouldn’t be able to peer into the shopping basket to see that of the thousands of dollars someone might spend at the beginning of a hunting season would be mostly for gear, only a large purchase totaling thousands of dollars. That could raise a flag as a “suspicious” purchase. They could deny the transaction. They would report the transaction to law enforcement and a law-abiding gun owner could be put on a watchlist, like the terrorist watchlist or the government’s “No Fly” list. They could expect a visit from law enforcement asking them about their purchase, or attempted purchase.

How They Want It to Work

That’s just the beginning. Sorkin detailed plans to snap the door closed. Credit card giants need to do more than adopt the code, Sorkin said, they need to enforce it. That would require the credit card companies forcing sporting goods stores to ring up gun and ammunition separately at the gun counter and utilize the gun store MCC. Sorkin also wants payment processors to develop software algorithms that would automatically flag “suspicious” purchases. Those looking for a definition of what would be “suspicious” should be wary that Amalgamated Bank is already working on this. Banks, if Sorkin has his way, would be the arbiters of approving or denying the purchase.

That’s putting unelected bureaucrats in control of Second Amendment freedoms. Antigun billionaire Michael Bloomberg’s Everytown for Gun Safety is heralding the move they say would prevent “… an extremist building an arsenal.” It could also prevent law-abiding gun owners from purchasing a handgun to protect themselves. Giffords gun control group tweeted, “Next steps: We’ll work with @Visa, @Mastercard, & @AmericanExpress to ensure bad actors are not exploiting our nation’s financial system to carry out mass shootings and illicitly traffic firearms.” Since Giffords’ goal is to ban guns, “bad actors” would seem to include every lawful gun purchaser. Brady United, another gun control group, also glommed onto the “bad actors” descriptor, lumping all gun purchasers as potential criminals.

This assault on privacy and Second Amendment rights isn’t through. NSSF will work with Congress, state legislatures, and attorneys general to battle back and protect the industry and those it serves. This new gun store MCC will not protect America from criminals but it does serve the demands of gun control zealots to chill and then kill lawful gun ownership in America.

What do you think of the new merchant codes? How will they be used against our Second Amendment rights? Share your answers in the comment section.

The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (21)

  1. Simple Solution. Purchase a Visa gift card at your local supermarket. Then use it to pay for your firearm/ammo purchases. $5.95 fee is worth the peace of mind. Better yet use a credit card with cash back from supermarkets to make the gift card purchase. I have one with 6% cash back. I buy a $500 gift card at the supermarket, pay the $5.95 fee for the gift card, and get $30 plus some change in cash back! Actually making a $25 profit off the transaction!!

  2. How about getting banks to create a new Merchant Category Access Code to apply only to Congressmen & their family members buying & selling stock shares in companies doing business with the federal government? That would be a good first task to assign the 80,000+ new licensed to kill IRS agents the obamaharris regime want to force on us.

  3. I believe one comment had the right idea. Almost all credit cards have a cash advance option. So take out a cash advance, get the cash and buy what you want. Cash sale no reporting, credit company only knows it as cash advance. Done deal.

  4. I’m a software developer and rest assured, no one needs the new merchant codes to track guns and ammo purchases and the people making the purchases. A couple of fairly simple joins in Oracle or MS Sql databases will do the job nicely. Is your gun range membership on auto-renew each month? Then it’s easy to track. Do you buy from a Known Retailer like Cheap as Dirt? They can cross reference the retailer name as easily as the merchant code.

  5. Brady United lost focus on letting John Hinckley Jr out of the mental institution to walk the streets again James Brady’s death was ruled from complications of a gun shot wound (murder). The government should focus on stricter gun violence and drug dealer sentencing by building more prisons instead of the justice sentencing being a catch and release program. As far as death penalty methods they should match what the criminal has done to their victims i.e firing range, poison etc. It should be a capital offence (life in prison with no parole or death penalty) for the drug dealers who end up killing and maming the most US citizens. Glen

  6. The American government is gaining to much power over gun control. It’s getting time to protect our gun rights. Because evidently the 2nd amendment isn’t helping much anymore. Maybe it’s time we made examples out of a few government officials!!

  7. The banks tracking and reporting gun and sporting equipment sales will come back to bite the credit card companies. Credit card purchases will be replaced with cash purchases. There goes millions in profits for the banks.

  8. The foundational logic is simple, and we cannot lose sight of that. The “anti-gun” politicians aren’t anti-gun. They are anti-our guns. But they are more pro-gun than Republicans. Nobody gives out more guns than Biden and obama. Nobody wants more guns than they do. They just don’t want us to have guns. They want only them to have guns. Hitler was the same way. Right to bear arms was out of the question with him. But he had more guns than anybody. And what did hollocaust survivors say was the reason they were powerless when the Nazis came to exterminate? “They had the guns.” What if the jews had the right to bear arms and were all armed? No extermination! It would be a war instead, and wars are not fun and easy like an extermination. Evil has to be kept in check. The fact is everybody loves guns. In a dangerous situation the first thing a liberal will scream to her republican friend is “where is your gun!?” Guns are the greatest thing ever when they are on your side. You want your friends armed and enemies disarmed. The world always has and will have evil that has to be protected against. That’s the whole purpose of the second amendment. They want the good guys armed with the power. “Government of (for and by) the people”. They weren’t joking, and that’s the reason for the 2a. Not only the government has guns. The 2a checks the government’s power. As long as we have guns they know they cannot do anything like a dictator and just come into your house and take anything they want on a large scale. They cannot control the people. That’s what upsets them most. It had almost nothing to do with preserving hunting and sporting rights. I sometimes wonder what people think is the reason for the second amendment now. Of all the rights why is it the second at the top!? The first ten are “the bill of inalienable rights.” And the second of the ten is right to arms. I think many people don’t even know. So the big effort today is to turn people against themselves in their minds through propaganda. It is to convince people that people cannot be trusted. We have to only rely on big brother. Many are deceived. As biden says assault weapons have no place in communities he is shipping billions of dollars of them into ukrainian communities and donating them to the taliban. Everyone always says civilians are hurt the most by war rather than soldiers. Then why can we not have weapons to shoot back?? That’s all it is. They want only them having guns so they can do whatever they want like hitler to people and not have to worry. It is a power struggle. It is super simple. It is super plain. And that is the reason for the 2a. It is to keep the power in the hands of the people. Those russian occupations in ukraine are completely impossible in the usa. Every single window and door has a sniper. In ukraine every door and window has a victim! We need to stay on our side. We need to keep our rights.

  9. Every month I save $50 out for my “fun” fund. Looks like I won’t be using a debit card for any future purchases. Cash only. Our personal freedoms are eroding faster that I can keep up.

  10. That’s what cash advances are for. Simply go to your bank ask for an advance. Pay cash. Now it’s on your card, with time to pay. No one is the wiser.

  11. They keep missing with peoples gun people will go after the government with there guns the police won’t even be safe its coming look at the 2 amendment we have the right even with out permit were better off in the wild west

  12. This is definitely a way for the Left Leaning Democratic Party to glean information on who is purchasing reloading equipment/supplies, ammunition, etc. and then to publish a list of gun owners (bad actors) without creating a government registry on purchases.
    We need to find a way to fight this!

  13. The creeping encroachment of a tyrannical government assisted ably by its corporate cronies proceeds apace. I shall continue to support the firearms industry and any other I choose in reply. Sic Semper Tyrannis.

  14. Not at all surprised or disappointed this is the the goal of the (Anti-Gun) activist, it’s about them wanting all of our guns!

    As a retired (LEO) I can tell you this tact does nothing whatsoever to address the rising violent crime problem in America?

    So, my question is, what do we do next? How do we go on offense and continue fighting for our 2A rights and privacy?

    And, how do we counter these banks and organizations who have chosen to get on board and in bed with this un-American agenda against law abiding citizens?

    Respectfully,
    E. Laureano

  15. It looks like we are going to need another Credit Card to step up and refuse this Un Constitutional measure!
    I believe several State AG’s have instituted Legal action against tje big 3 Card Companies at this time. Let’s hope they are successful.
    In the mean time, does anyone know of another method of online purchases???

  16. Current history has shown that NO database is really secure. It’s become increasingly obvious that hackers can find you through VISA, or any other list. Doesn’t this list then make your home a more valuable target from anybody from an international terrorist to the local punk (whether it be a hardened criminal to someone of high school – or even junior high school – age to) to decide to break into your home while you are out? — Before this list business, we lived in Baltimore City. It turned out a local drug dealer lived right across the street from me. While I was out with my dogs, he and friends broke in, stole numerous guns I used to teach with. The City Police finally caught them, but my most valuable guns never came back (though we have evidence that the police recovered some or all. … We suspect they ended up in some cop’s personal collection but can’t prove it!
    Speaking of this new listing, what about pawn shops, camping supply & sporting goods stores, surplus stores, etc, etc. — Are we now going to have to carry around bundles of cash?
    Apparently, the FBI has been maintaining illegal records of background checks, and many police agencies do the same. In speaking with the Md State Police, I stated I was reluctant to register as a “collector.” Thet stated, “don’t worry, we already know what you have anyway.”
    Do I sound paranoid? — You bet, and it’s all due to the constant pushing by an anti-gun Congress. I have been shooting competitively for over 50 years, and teaching and coaching for as long. Nobody’s been hurt, unlike in football, but who attacks football?

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