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Press Release  AG Campbell Co-Leads Coalition Urging Major Credit Card Companies To Fulfill Their Pledge To Use Merchant Code for Gun Sales by Gun Dealers

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  • Office of the Attorney General

Media Contact   for AG Campbell Co-Leads Coalition Urging Major Credit Card Companies To Fulfill Their Pledge To Use Merchant Code for Gun Sales by Gun Dealers

Roxana Martinez-Gracias

BOSTONAttorney General Andrea Joy Campbell has co-led a coalition of 14 attorneys general in denouncing the decision of four of the world’s largest credit card companies — Visa, American Express, Mastercard and Discover — to walk back their commitment to implement a new merchant code for gun sales that would help prevent mass shootings and curb gun violence.

In September, Visa, American Express and MasterCard publicly announced plans to add a new merchant code for gun retailers. The creation of the new code had been approved earlier that month by the Switzerland-based International Organization for Standardization — the international body that sets uniform codes used around the world to classify merchants based on the type of business, trade, or service supplied — to allow financial institutions to better detect and report suspicious activities related to the purchase of firearms and ammunition at standalone gun retail stores. In February 2023, Discover announced that it too would begin using the new code.

However, last week, all four companies announced they were no longer implementing the code, citing legislation in several states seeking to bar or limit the use of the voluntary code.

In a letter sent to the chief executives of Visa, American Express, Mastercard and Discover, the coalition, co-led by AG Campbell, urged the companies not to succumb to this political pressure and to apply the code as promised.

“As we continue to experience the aftermath and trauma of senseless gun violence in our communities, we must utilize all available resources to stop these tragedies,” said AG Campbell. “My colleagues and I urge these credit companies not to cave to political pressure and to move forward with what will be an important resource in detecting, identifying and stopping potential threats to public safety.”

The new code creates a unique merchant category for gun stores, which previously were categorized as “sporting goods stores” or “general merchandise.” The code will have no bearing on an individual’s ability to lawfully purchase firearms, the letter states. It will, however, help financial institutions and law enforcement agencies identify unlawful transactions, including the purchase of prohibited firearms such as ghost guns or assault weapons; sales to straw buyers engaged in trafficking; and transactions involving high-risk purchasers trying to avoid detection in amassing an arsenal that could be used for mass shootings.

In the letter, the attorneys general remind the credit card companies that the newly created code for gun stores is not a novel development, as the companies have already used codes in categorizing basic transactions for everyday items like flowers and groceries, and already have hundreds of retailer codes for everything from stamp shops and wig stores to car rental agencies and various government services.

The coalition also points out that enabling financial institutions to detect and flag threatening patterns and potential criminal activity for law enforcement is nothing new, as financial institutions have been doing it for decades. Federal law requires Suspicious Activity Reports when banks “detect a known or suspected violation of Federal law or a suspicious transaction related to a money laundering activity or a violation of the Bank Secrecy Act.” Additionally, state and federal law enforcement agencies often request evidence relating to firearms or other investigations, but the ability of financial institutions or law enforcement to take steps against criminal gun purchases is hampered by the lack of a dedicated code for firearm and ammunition retailers. Utilizing a special merchant code can assist state and federal law enforcement in identifying potential concerns related to firearm purchases.

The attorneys general urged the companies to stand by their original pledge to adopt the code and their commitment to ensure public safety. In their letter, the coalition argues that if the companies backtrack now on their pledge, and succumb to political pressure, this could invite further interference in lawful, protected business practices.

The letter can be found in full here.

AG Campbell is committed to combating gun violence in Massachusetts and across the country. In January, the AG’s Office joined a multistate coalition of attorneys general in filing an amicus brief in support of New York’s law prohibiting the carrying of firearms in place of worship and religious observation. In February, AG Campbell also filed briefs in two ongoing legal cases, Granata v. Campbell, and National Association for Gun Rights v. Campbell, to defend and uphold common sense Massachusetts laws and regulations intended to protect the people of Massachusetts from gun violence. 

The letter was co-led by AG Campbell, AG Matthew J. Platkin of New Jersey, AG Brian Schwalb of Washington D.C. and AG Kathy Jennings of Delaware, and joined by the attorneys general of California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, New York, Nevada, Oregon, and Rhode Island, who have all signed onto the letter.

Working on this matter for the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office are Leah MacArthur, Diana Hooley, Audra Kingsley, Lilia DuBois, and Glenn Kaplan of the AG’s Insurance and Financial Services Division.



Media Contact   for AG Campbell Co-Leads Coalition Urging Major Credit Card Companies To Fulfill Their Pledge To Use Merchant Code for Gun Sales by Gun Dealers

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