Consumer Information

The Death of Credit Card Possessors Tracking Firearm Purchases? Maybe…

Picture shows a woman holding a black AR-15 chambered for .458 SOCOM in front of steel target.

Few things warm my heart more than watching the air coming out of gun control advocates’ celebratory balloons. I can’t say the recent news is a win for the Second Amendment, but it certainly isn’t a loss. Credit card companies have “paused” the implementation of their plans for a new merchant category code (MCC) that would essentially create a backdoor tracking registry of people purchasing firearms, ammunition, and related items.

The new MCC was not going to track specific items; it sought to create a log of people making purchases at gun stores and reporting the transactions to the feds as “suspicious” activities. Thankfully, due to public and political pressure, the politicized financial institutions behind the scheme have backed off implementation. However, the mere attempt at backdoor gun control demonstrates just how far the anti-gunners will go to trample our Second Amendment rights.

Order Confirmation
Ordering your firearms online and having them shipped to a local FFL is quick and easy. Amex, Visa, Master Card, and Discover have all “paused” plans to track purchases from retailers selling firearms.

The Backstory

The threat of tracking had been rumored for a number of months, beginning after the MCC code was rolled out last year by the International Standards Organization (ISO). Then, in February, Discover announced it would implement a new merchant category code to be used to identify transactions with firearms dealers. Discover also boasted that its competitors were planning to do the same thing. Can you say “collusion”?

Intense lobbying by rabid gun control politicians and Amalgamated Bank — an institution known for using financial leverage to promote sustainable organizations, progressive causes, and social justice — was the main impetus for the ISO’s action.

Naturally, gun control advocates celebrated the ISO’s effort, believing it was a way to create a backdoor registry, stigmatize gun owners, and decrease sales at establishments selling firearms. Last November, one of the CEOs pushing for the tracking code was quoted as saying, “Banks are developing technology to identify potential mass shooters.”

I wonder what the true effect would have been — driving sales underground or many gun owners adopting a cash-only purchase policy…?

Here was the plan for those still opting to use their credit card:

“‘Detection scenarios’ are in the works. When triggered, it will prompt banks to file a Suspicious Activity Report to the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network.” ~Amalgamated Bank Chief Executive Officer Priscilla Sims Brown

Smith and Wesson .357 Magnum and roll of money
It’s hard to say whether the flawed scheme to track credit card purchases at gun stores would have had any more effect than purchasers relying on cash.

That’s right, a legal purchase of unknow items, and your credit card processor would have reported you for a potential financial crime! As one person put it on social media, “I wonder what President Bident had in mind for the 80,000 new IRS agents…”

Fortunately, gun owners — supporters of the Second Amendment — pushed back and not just a little bit. However, the heavy lifting really came from the state-level politicians who proposed new laws that would have prohibited the use of the new merchant code in their state.

The scheme was doomed to fail anyway. Simply because a future mass shooter bought a gun or two in the days or weeks leading up to their crime would not be enough to say every purchase is suspicious or worthy of a suspicious activity report for a financial crime. And would the response time for the investigation have been enough to prevent the next heinous act? How would the detection scenarios have prevented the next tragic crime?

The Pullback

Discover was one of the most, if not the most, vocal credit card processors, in my opinion, about instituting the new tracking. Discover also lead in communicating the collapse of the scheme. According to communications from Discover, the new proposed merchant code (MCC 5723) has been pulled from its upcoming software update for merchant processing systems.

10 loaded AR-15 magazines with a box of Hornady 55-grain ammunition
It does not matter whether you are purchasing a new AR-15, collectible classic, fishing tackle, or anything else, the new merchant code scheme was nothing more than a backdoor attempt at gun control.

The feckless responses from credit card processors were no more impressive:

“Our rules require our customers to conduct lawful activity where they are licensed to use our brands. The ISO’s decision to create a firearms-related merchant category code (MCC) does not change that.”

“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. It’s for that reason that we have decided to pause work on the implementation of the firearms-specific MCC.”

Flawed Thinking

“Banks should report dangerous warning signs to law enforcement when extremists are quickly building up massive stockpiles of guns, but that first requires ensuring gun store transactions have a unique identifier,” urged John Feinblatt, president of Everytown for Gun Safety.

The merchant code was flawed from its genus. The code did not track purchases of particular items, just the business you purchased the items from. A purchase of archery equipment, fishing tackle, or a new boat would be tracked the same as a new shotgun or AR-15 when purchased from a “gun store.” A collectible 1903 Colt, Single Action Army, or Pennsylvania rifle (muzzleloader) would have been treated the same an AR-15.

Pro-gun Politicians’ Response

The true death knell for the MCC came from the response to the legislation brewing in multiple states. The legislation included Florida’s SB 214, which promised to criminalize the use of firearms-specific merchant category codes by financial institutions, and West Virginia’s HB 2004, which prohibited discrimination against businesses assigned the firearms MCC. HB2004 also protects information related to such transactions.

Fortunately for gun owners, the pressure of pro-gun politicians trumped the efforts of the anti-gun politicians and gun control groups championing the MCC. Given the flawed nature of the political scheme, uneven application, and non-specific tracking of the items purchased, it is hard to imagine any other outcome.

Montana was one of almost half of the states in the nation opposing the new merchant code. As a result of these efforts, “Visa, Mastercard, and Discover came to the correct conclusion,” according to Attorney General Austin Knudsen of Montana.

The Second Amendment is my gun permit
The people’s voice was heard by state lawmakers. Almost half of the states in the nation passed or proposed laws that would have nullified the the new merchant codes use and made it illegal to share the data collected.

Attorney General Knudsen continued (and this is why I started by saying this pause wasn’t a win for the Second Amendment):

“They shouldn’t just ‘pause’ their implementation of this plan—they should end it definitively. American Express should do the same. This measure will do nothing to improve public safety while invading consumer privacy and inviting coordination between corporations and government agencies to erode Americans’ fundamental right to keep and bear arms.”

The Battlefield

Pro-gun politicians and states have proven there will be significant opposition to the firearm-tracking MCC, but you can be assured the anti-gunners will not rest. Their next move will likely be to compel the change through legislation, causing a fight in the courts and the realm of public opinion. Social justice groups and financial institutions with a strong political slant against the protections enumerated in the Second Amendment will follow suit.

Elections matter. Vote wisely.

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 (10)

  1. The price of freedom is eternal vigilance. That said we must keep an eagle eye on those who would disarm us all.

    By the way, how do we know if we are already being tracked when we purchase liquor, or tobacco?

    There is a fine line between paranoid and vigilant.

    “From my cold dead hands”

  2. “Yes, we need to remain vigilant, but we should remember that while unconstitutionally minded people have infiltrated organizations, there are still people faithful to the Constitution, besides, just the ones we know of.”

    As long as we do not “trust in the process”.
    One could right up to when the noose is placed around the neck at the scaffold.

  3. It is possible the Discover and others bragging about the MCC was specifically for the purpose of getting it shut down.

    Imagine you were a senior person in a credit card company and also an NRA member (or similar association) and you saw this coming down. How best to stop it without sacrificing your career and livelihood?

    Virtue signal the to Left that your company was fully behind it! That would, and did, have the same effect in stopping it as Paul Revere’s Midnight Ride had in stopping the British from disarming Lexington and Concord.

    Yes, we need to remain vigilant, but we should remember that while unconstitutionally minded people have infiltrated organizations, there are still people faithful to the Constitution, besides, just the ones we know of.

  4. I believe the leak that happened in California about gun owners addresses was not a coincidence.
    Example to me : like a bank working with bad guys after a huge amount of withdrawn.

  5. I was a little surprised that the firearm merchants that sold online and even those brick & mortar shops just accepting in store payment by credit card didn’t put up much of a fuss over the new code. I thought that perhaps the firearm merchants would publish a list of those credit cards that were choosing not to use the new MCC for the buyer to use and perhaps put up a warning in their checkout process if you were attempting to use a credit card to make a purchase which would have the MCC tracking. Maybe they feared retribution from the banks using the MCC.

  6. And yet, The bad guy’s don’t need a credit card to buy a stolen gun on the streets or the black market. Gun’s are not the problem, It’s bad and crazy people.

  7. ” Discover also boasted that its competitors were planning to do the same thing. Can you say “collusion”?”.
    Rather, I can say “RACKETEERING” which is a federal offense and carries hefty fines and jail time.

  8. I just sent Discover the following message
    I recently read an article that said Discover was the lead credit card company in stating they were adopting the new merchant category code (MC 5723) to help form a database of all firearms and firearms related transactions. That code is currently on hold. But, as I understand it, the MCC could be reinstated at any time. If Discover does reinstate that code you can plan on me immediately cancelling my card with Discover.

  9. If there is no registry of gun ownership, how can the clerk at the Canada Border check know what guns I own, accurately and ask me about them? I don’t even know how many and what kind of guns I bought over the LAST 60 YEARS! My mother’s father had over 1000 when he died, I am at 5 to 10 % of that at most.

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