Washington – Today, House Gun Violence Prevention Task Force Chair Rep. Mike Thompson (CA-05) and Rep. Madeleine Dean (PA-04) led 118 members of Congress on a letter written to American Express, Mastercard, and Visa in support of their decision to create a new Merchant Category Code (MCC) for firearms and ammunitions businesses.
Since the passage of the 1968 Gun Control Act, gun dealers have been required to report suspicious gun purchases to law enforcement. A more specific Merchant Category Code will let financial institutions decern if a series of irregular purchases are for guns and ammunition, vs. sleeping bags and tents, which previously were often sold under with the same merchant category code. Financial institutions already refer suspicious purchases and referrals made using data from the more specific merchant code would improve this longstanding practice.
“The proliferation of firearms through straw purchasing is a major contributing factor to gun violence in our country,” said Thompson. “By implementing a new Merchant Category Code (MCC) for firearms and munitions retailers, credit card companies will be able to better flag transactions for likely straw purchasing. The new voluntary action taken by the financial services industry is a vital step toward a system that detects suspicious activity and refers it to law enforcement, ultimately with the goal of saving lives.”
“By creating a new MCC for gun and ammunition retailers, credit card companies and financial institutions can better monitor suspicious activity, like straw purchases, and, in turn, help save lives,” Representative Dean said. “Our nation’s gun violence crisis requires all of us to act, and I urge companies like MasterCard, American Express, and Visa to support Amalgamated Bank’s request for this code – as it is common for most retailers.”
Financial institutions in some cases are in a better position to identify suspicious transactions because they will know if someone is taking on a lot of debt when making purchases, and will know if the person is making a large amount of purchases at multiple locations. For example, the 2017 Las Vegas shooter evaded raising red flags from gun dealers when building up his arsenal because he went to multiple dealers to buy his guns and ammunition. Those individual gun dealers also didn’t know that he was taking on a huge amount of debt to purchase the firearms and ammunition, which is a warning sign of a potential mass shooting.
This letter is supported by Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, Giffords and Everytown for Gun Safety.
The full letter can be read here.