GOP attorney general threatens Visa, American Express and MasterCard over gun store code

New York

Two dozen Republican attorneys general warned Visa, American Express and MasterCard on Tuesday against plans to add a new merchant category code for gun dealers.

In a letter to card giants’ CEOs, officials expressed grave concern that passing a new sales code for gun stores would harm gun owners’ constitutional rights and violate consumer protection and antitrust laws.

The Republic’s attorney general is threatening to take action against card companies if they follow through on recently announced plans to adopt the new code, which was approved by an international group that sets payment standards.

“Please note that we will use the full scope of our legal authority to protect our citizens and consumers from unlawful attempts to undermine their constitutional rights,” the letter reads. “Please keep this in mind as you consider whether to continue to support and implement this Merchant Category Code.”

Proponents of the new code have argued that it could target mass shootings and gun dealers.

Previously, gun stores were categorized as either general merchandise or sporting goods. These codes show where people shop, but don’t tell exactly what they bought.

The GOP letter, first published by The Wall Street Journal, says the new code for gun stores is “the result of transnational collusion between large corporations leveraging their market power to achieve social outcomes desired by their owners.”

Republican leaders Tennessee Attorney General Jonathan Skrmetti and Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen say the effort will contain “vague and misleading” information.

“This categorization would not distinguish, for example, between purchasing a gun safety and a firearm,” the officials wrote, adding that gun purchases at department stores would not be captured.

However, credit card companies have said they will continue to accept legitimate purchases and that will not change with the adoption of the new standards. In other words, this new dealer category code, or MCC, will not block legal gun purchases.

“We do not believe that private companies should function as moral arbiters,” Visa said in a blog post last week. “Requiring private companies to decide which legal products or services can or cannot be purchased and from which stores sets a dangerous precedent.”

Visa added that its network does not allow members of the financial institution to refuse transactions for the purchase of legitimate goods or services in accordance with the commercial code.