Mastercard, Visa, and American Express are reportedly preparing to equip California firearms and ammunition retailers with a merchant code that would track gun purchases. This comes as a new state law allowing banks to monitor suspicious weapons purchases is set to go into effect in 2025.
Merchant category codes are four-digit numbers given to retailers that allow credit card companies to track and gather information on a cardholder’s purchase. Last year, the major credit card companies paused their work on applying MCCs after being met with opposition from Second Amendment advocates from various states. Republicans praised the prominent credit card companies’ decision to halt the MCC implementation.
“However, they shouldn’t just ‘pause’ their implementation of this plan — they should end it definitively,” Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen said in a statement following the news in March 2023.
Meanwhile, proponents such as Guns Down America and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) say that using MCCs to track firearm purchases will help prevent gun violence.
“It is likely that, if a firearm and ammunition retailer MCC had been operational at the time of those mass shootings, the uncharacteristically large sums spent on credit cards at firearm retailers within a short time span would have been recognized as suspicious and could have been flagged for law enforcement,” lawmakers wrote in a statement referring to the Pulse nightclub and Aurora movie theater shootings.
The credit card companies said that the MCC, which was approved by the International Organization for Standardization in 2022, would not reveal information about the customer purchasing the gun or individual items purchased, but would provide information about where the weapons were purchased, CBS News reported.
States remain split over the use of MCCs. Seven Republican-controlled legislatures have prohibited the codes, and nine legislatures are still considering their implementation.
Mastercard, Visa, and American Express executives wrote to Democratic congressional leaders saying that the MCC would be ready for California retailers by May 2025, according to the letter.
“The applicable standalone merchants in California primarily engaged in the sale of firearms will be required to utilize the code,” Mastercard executive Tucker Foote wrote in the letter.
The credit card companies’ return to implementing the controversial codes follows a recent federal appeals court’s decision to proceed with a California law requiring background checks for those purchasing firearm ammunition in the state in an effort to prevent gun violence.