Discover to implement gun code in April: report


Dive Brief:

  • Discover Financial Services plans to begin using a new merchant category code for gun and ammunition sellers on its network in April, Reuters reported Saturday. Credit card company Discover, both an issuer and a network, is the first to announce its plans for enabling use of the code.
  • The new merchant code for gun and ammunition shops is now published, a spokesperson for the International Organization for Standardization said Tuesday.
  • The code will be part of Discover’s next policy and product update for merchants and payment partners in April, a company spokesperson told Reuters. Spokespeople for the Riverwoods, Illinois-based company didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Dive Insight:

Geneva, Switzerland-based ISO approved the code in September 2022, and ISO Spokesperson Sandrine Tranchard said earlier this month publication was set to occur in February. Use of the new code is voluntary and “eventually left up to the users in the industry,” Tranchard said. 

Discover followed payment network peers in opting to implement the code in April, a Discover spokesperson told Reuters, so the company is tracking their lead “for consistent implementation.” The spokesperson declined to name those companies, Reuters reported.

“We remain focused on continuing to protect and support lawful purchases on our network while protecting the privacy of cardholders,” the card company said in a statement to Reuters.

Spokespeople for Visa, Mastercard and American Express didn’t immediately respond Tuesday when asked about their company’s plans to enable the new code. Professionals from those card companies serve on ISO committees.

Representatives for Amalgamated Bank, the financial institution that proposed creation of the code, declined to comment Tuesday. 

As high-profile shootings have occurred across the country, the purchase of guns and ammunition via credit and debit cards has come under scrutiny. 

Last year, state officials, pension leaders and gun-control advocates pressured ISO and the big card companies to approve a new code, noting the lack of tracking of such merchants within the payments system. Proponents of the code have said it will provide a new way to track guns paid for with credit and debit cards and help law enforcement take note of suspicious purchases. 

But others, including Republican attorneys general and House Republicans, have expressed concerns about the new code. The former group urged Visa, Mastercard and Amex not to use the code, and the latter group demanded answers from big bank CEOs on their plans for the new code.

Visa, too, has warned that the code should not be a way to interfere with lawful gun sales.

The gun rights advocacy group National Rifle Association, better known as the NRA, didn’t immediately provide a comment on the report, and neither did five of the Republican AG offices that were contacted for comment.


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