Democrats slam card CEOs over gun code


Dive Brief:

  • Fourteen Democratic attorneys general issued a letter Thursday calling on the CEOs of card companies Visa, Mastercard, American Express and Discover Financial Services to stick to their “original promise” of implementing the new merchant category code for gun and ammunition sellers. 
  • Last week, all four card companies backed off previous plans to adopt the gun code, which would identify purchases made at gun and ammunition stores with a credit card. Visa and Mastercard noted a handful of states are considering legislation that would bar or restrict use of the code. 
  • The letter seen by Payments Dive notes that if card companies fail to implement the gun code, the group of attorneys general may “consider further actions.” Spokespeople for Visa, Mastercard, Amex and Discover didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment. 

Dive Insight:

The move follows a group of Democratic senators, led by Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Bob Menendez (D-NJ), urging the Treasury and Justice departments Wednesday to quickly put forth guidance designed to facilitate implementation of the gun code. 

In light of legislation that’s cropped up in a handful of Republican-led states designed to block the code, the senators believe card companies “have a responsibility to push forward, and Treasury and DOJ should provide them, and other financial institutions, with the proper tools for implementation in a timely manner,” according to a news release from Menendez’s office. 

Thursday’s letter, signed by AGs from California, New York, Illinois, New Jersey and Washington, D.C., among others, noted the group is “all too painfully familiar with the costs of gun violence.” They noted high-profile shootings last year in Highland Park, Illinois and Buffalo, New York. 

New York Attorney General Letitia James and California Attorney General Rob Bonta were among the state officials calling for the code’s creation last year. Proponents have touted the code as a way to track suspicious gun purchases. 

The letter is the latest volley in a politically fraught subject for the card companies. After the code was created last September by a Geneva-based standards body, the International Organization for Standardization, a group of Republican attorneys general responded by urging card CEOs not to use the code. 

Since then, Republican lawmakers in a handful of states have introduced legislation taking aim at the gun code. 

A spokesperson for ISO, which published the code last month, has said use of the new code is voluntary, meaning that industry players decide when and where to use it. ISO does “not keep count on how widely it is utilized,” Spokesperson Sandrine Tranchard said in an email March 10.


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