Gun Control Advocates Target Credit Card Use By: William Lawson

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Gun control advocates have shown that they will never stop trying to disarm American citizens. Their legislative agenda has largely failed. Despite some success in the House of Representatives, the Senate has little appetite for gun control beyond the usual suspects. The Supreme Court’s Bruen Decision has started rolling back previous gun control laws and its consequences are only beginning.

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Visa credit cards
Gun control advocates are using credit card companies to track gun sales. (AP Photo/Jenny Kane/File)

New York, California, and a few other states are scrambling, but their draconian gun laws seem ever more precarious. New York Governor Kathy Hochul’s temper tantrum has been truly spectacular, exposing all her inner authoritarian impulses.

But, as their legislative initiatives flounder, the gun control crowd is attacking along a new avenue: legal commerce. And they aren’t shy about saying their target is you and me.

The Lowdown

Priscilla Sims Brown, President and CEO of Amalgamated Bank successfully pressured the International Organization for Standardization (ISO, yes, I know the acronym doesn’t match) to create a new merchant category code for gun and ammunition retailers. That code will show up on all credit card transactions with those retailers.

Gun stores have historically been coded in the “sporting goods” category, which makes sense because most gun stores carry more than just guns and many large sporting goods retailers also sell firearms. The change will supposedly allow credit card companies to track suspicious buying activity and report it to the police. Supposedly.

MasterCard and American Express immediately signed on to accepting the new code. Visa initially resisted but caved under pressure from certain bad actors we will discuss shortly.

Gun store sale
Gun controllers have pressured credit card companies to institute a new merchant code for gun stores. Any purchase under the new code can potentially be flagged as “suspicious.” (Getty Images)

A New Take on an Old Gun Control Idea

This action is reminiscent of the Obama Administration’s “Operation Chokepoint,” a Justice Department initiative that ran from 2013 to 2017. Operation Chokepoint, at its core, sought to deny or severely restrict banking services to certain industries the administration didn’t like, including firearms manufacturers and retailers.

Critics successfully argued that the Justice Department had wrongly damaged legitimate businesses and multiple lawsuits were settled. Congress got involved as well, with the House Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations Chairman saying that “I fear that activists at the DoJ and the FDIC are abusing their power and authority and are going after legal businesses and, in effect, they are weaponizing government to meet their ideological beliefs.”

The program was significantly scaled back in January of 2015 and officially ended by the Trump Administration in August of 2017, citing harm to legitimate businesses.

Privatizing Gun Control (With a Nudge from Government Officials)

Former FDIC Chairman William Isaac wrote a scathing 2014 opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal. Its title was “Don’t Like an Industry? Send a Message to Its Bankers.” The piece roasted the DoJ and Operation Chokepoint. Isaac’s argument that the government was out of line proved correct.

Igor Volsky
Authoritarian Gun Controller Igor Volsky of Guns Down America. (thetruthabout guns.com)

But look at the title again. Isaac’s basic premise is also spot on. Businesses cannot function without banks. That’s just the way our economy works. So, the gun controllers recognized that if the government can’t restrict bank access, how about the banks themselves?

To this end, prominent gun control groups such as the Giffords and Brady organizations, Guns Down America, and New Yorkers Against Gun Violence have been pressuring credit card companies to flag “suspicious” guns and ammo purchases since at least 2019. They claim it will help reduce gun violence, though they have no real data to back up that claim. Prominent government officials such as Hochul and Senator Elizabeth Warren also added their thumbs to the scale.

American Express was receptive to the idea but took no action when Visa and MasterCard said it wasn’t their job to restrict lawful purchases made by their customers. Visa CEO Alfred F. Kelly, Jr. even said such activity sets a dangerous precedent by having private companies act as legislators.

Gun control letter to MasterCard
The gun controllers’ letter to MasterCard. (Guns & Gadgets YouTube Channel)

Never Waste a Crisis

The Uvalde, Texas murders combined with the Bruen Decision sparked new interest in circumventing the legislative process. Hochul and New York Attorney General Letitia James began pushing banks to “voluntarily” fall in line with the gun control agenda.

Priscilla Sims Brown was all for it. Amalgamated Bank is a major institution that calls itself “America’s socially responsible bank.” It was begun by labor unions and provides funding for many left-leaning organizations, including the Democrat Party. And that’s fine. Those are legit organizations. But left-leaning outfits often favor gun control and Amalgamated Bank is no different. They already refuse to do business with any firearms-related company.

Priscilla Sims Brown
Amalgamated Bank’s Priscilla Sims Brown (cnbc.com)

Brown was instrumental in convincing the ISO to adopt the new merchant category code for firearms retailers. Brown’s statement regarding the new code leaves no doubt as to its ideological motivations:

“We all have to do our part to stop gun violence and it sometimes starts with illegal purchases of guns and ammunition. The new code allows us to fully comply with our duty to report suspicious activity and illegal gun sales to authorities without blocking or impeding legal gun sales. This answers the call of millions of Americans who want safety from gun violence, and we are proud to have led the broad coalition of advocates, shareholders, and elected officials that achieved this historic outcome.”

Credit Card Companies Cave

The ISO does not have the authority to enforce its decisions. Like the Pirate’s Code, it’s more what you’d call “guidelines.” But, despite dismissing the idea in 2019, MasterCard said they will accept the new code. American Express was wishy-washy from the beginning, so no backbone there, but Visa appeared to stand firm. At first. But within a couple of days, pressure from the gun control groups, New York state officials, Senator Warren, and numerous Democrat Members of Congress brought Visa into the fold.

NY Governor Kathy Hochul Tweet
New York Governor Kathy Hochul publicly pressured credit card companies to accept the new merchant code.

It has since come out that some large pension funds, notably in New York and California, pressured the credit card companies as well. Brad Lander is a trustee of the New York City Employees’ Retirement Fund, Teachers’ Retirement System, and Board of Education Retirement System. Those entities, together, own 667,200 shares in American Express, 1.1 million shares in MasterCard, and 1.85 million shares in Visa. Together, those shares are worth about 803.94 million dollars.

Lander said, before the companies accepted the new code, that “Unfortunately, the credit card companies have failed to support this simple, practical, potentially lifesaving tool. The time has come for them to do so.” By the way, Lander is also New York City’s Comptroller and beholden to anti-gun Mayor Eric Adams. Think ideology played a role there?

MasterCard credit cards
MasterCard stood firm in 2019. Not so much in 2022. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic/File)

Pushback against gun control? Maybe.

In another interesting development, Visa’s shares fell 3.4 percent on Tuesday, accounting for almost half the company’s 2022 losses. Visa also released the following statement Tuesday: “We do not believe private companies should serve as moral arbiters. Asking private companies to decide what legal products or services can or cannot be bought and from what store sets a dangerous precedent. Further, it would be an invasion of consumers’ privacy for banks and payment networks to know each of our most personal purchasing habits. Visa is firmly against this.”

Well, that sounds great Visa, but it looks like you’re still going to use the code. We don’t know whether the new code impacted Visa’s stock, but it does seem more than a little coincidental. The statement also brings up the next question…

What is this supposed to accomplish?

The gun controllers say it will allow the flagging of “suspicious activity.” Well, who gets to decide what is “suspicious?” What if you buy two guns at the same time because they’re on sale? How about you buy a five thousand dollar safe that just shows up as a 5k purchase at a gun store? Or maybe you buy bulk ammo to save money?

Gun control letter to American Express
The gun controllers’ letter to American Express. (Guns & Gadgets YouTube Channel)

The fact is that the gun controllers want to track it all. They compare it to credit card companies tracking and reporting potential financial fraud. Well, that’s great, considering those companies know about financial fraud and can spot it sometimes. But they don’t know what constitutes a legal gun store sale and what doesn’t.

And if the card companies spot something, to whom do they report it? And what would the people receiving the report do? The fact is that the new code will do nothing to combat violent crime. And I think that most of these clowns know it. Which brings us to the code’s real purpose…

The Real Gun Control Goals (In My Opinion)

Keep in mind that the following is totally my opinion. But I bet I’m close to getting it right. This is just a step. Gun controllers constantly push policies they know won’t work. But that’s the point. When their flavor of the month doesn’t do what they said it would, they use it as an excuse to push for more. “If we only do this one more thing…” And the process continues.

Make no mistake: the endgame is civilian disarmament. They say as much if you pay attention. This new merchant code allows them to track who does business at gun stores. Even if they can’t see exactly what you buy, they still know you bought something. The dollar amount can provide enough clues for an educated guess.

Gun controller's letter to Visa
The gun controllers’ letter to Visa. (Guns & Gadgets YouTube Channel)

Federal law prohibits a national gun registry. That law has burned their biscuits for decades now. But Gun Owners of America has proven that the ATF does indeed have a searchable database of firearms purchases. Do you think maybe that the ATF could subpoena this information from the card companies to a similar end? That’s assuming the card companies don’t do it voluntarily. Does anyone think that Kathy Hochul, or Elizabeth Warren, or Chris Murphy is above pressuring them to do just that? If there was ever a back-door gun control effort, I think this is it.

Who Would Get This Information Anyway?

What remains to be seen is what the ATF or whomever would do with that information. Maybe nothing. But are you willing to lay a bet down on that possibility? That the code will not prevent crime is clear to anyone with a brain. So, I can only conclude that it’s aimed at responsible gun owners. Is it simple harassment to make gun buying more difficult? Is it aimed at attaching a stigma to buying firearms? Maybe. Or maybe it’s more.

How about this scenario: the same people and groups who pressured the ISO and the card companies decide that people should not be able to buy guns with a credit card. They pressure those companies to deny all purchases carrying the new code. Think it can’t happen?

If so, I wish I had your faith. Gun controllers have shown that they will lie, propagandize, demonize, and do whatever else they think will achieve their goals. Remember that anti-gun Rhode Island Congressman David Cicilline said to “spare me the bullsh*t about Constitutional rights” in a committee debate on Red Flag Laws.

Congressman David Cicilline
Rhode Island Congressman and gun control advocate David Cicilline says your Constitutional rights are “Bullsh*t.” (townhall.com)

Finally, the ISO is based in Geneva, Switzerland. With the stroke of a pen, a group of unelected European bureaucrats enabled gun control aimed at American citizens by flagging their legal transactions at legitimate businesses. Does that bother you?

There’s a reason for this. But it ain’t about preventing violence. As for me, I’m going back to cash.

The author would like to thank Jared of the Guns & Gadgets YouTube Channel and Brayden of the Langley Outdoors Academy YouTube Channel for their diligent coverage of all things gun control.