A new merchant category code for gun and ammunition sellers is set to be published by an international standards body this month.
The ISO standard will be published by the end of February, said Sandrine Tranchard, spokesperson for the International Organization for Standardization, on Friday. Geneva, Switzerland-based ISO approved the change in September 2022.
As with all ISO standards, “the use of (merchant category codes) is voluntary (unless otherwise required, by contractual agreement between business parties, or by law), so the decision to use the new merchant category code is eventually left up to the users in the industry,” Tranchard said by email.
Supporters have said the code will provide a new means to track gun sales made via credit and debit card payments and help law enforcement flag suspicious purchases.
Amalgamated Bank, which proposed the creation of the code, declined to comment Friday on the status of the standard.
Spokespeople for Visa, Mastercard and American Express didn’t respond to requests for comment. Professionals from those card companies serve on ISO committees.
Recent high-profile shootings in which guns and ammunition were purchased with cards have highlighted the lack of tracking of such merchants within the payments system. That led to increased pressure from state officials, pension leaders and gun-control advocates for ISO and the big card companies to approve a new code.
The creation of the code has received pushback, however. Not long after the code was approved in September, Visa raised concerns about the new code being perceived as a way to interfere with legal sales. The card giant has said it doesn’t believe companies should act as “moral arbiters” in the area.
A group of Republican attorneys general urged card companies Visa, Mastercard and Amex not to use the new code, saying it would unfairly target law-abiding consumers and merchants. And House Republicans grilled big bank CEOs on their plans for the new code.
The new standard can be implemented as soon as it’s published, but ISO is not involved in implementation of its standards, Tranchard said in December.