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Press Release

Press Release AG Healey Joins Letter of Support for Major Credit Card Companies’ Adoption of New Merchant Code for Gun Sales by Arms Retailers

Visa, American Express, and Mastercard Will Adopt New Codes To Aid Law Enforcement Efforts Against Gun Violence
For immediate release:
9/30/2022
  • Office of Attorney General Maura Healey

Media Contact for AG Healey Joins Letter of Support for Major Credit Card Companies’ Adoption of New Merchant Code for Gun Sales by Arms Retailers

Thomas Dalton, Deputy Press Secretary

BOSTONAttorney General Maura Healey today joined a coalition of Attorneys General from across the nation in supporting adoption by three of the world’s largest credit card companies – Visa, American Express, and Mastercard – of a new merchant category code for the sale of firearms and ammunition that will aid law enforcement efforts to combat the scourge of gun violence.

“Gun violence is a public health epidemic, which is why we need to work on all fronts to keep our communities safe,” said AG Healey. “This new step from three major credit card companies will improve important data gathering and help local, state and federal law enforcement track and stop illegal sales of guns and ammunition.”

Earlier this month, the Switzerland-based International Organization for Standardization approved the creation of a new merchant code that will allow financial institutions to better detect and report suspicious activity related to the purchase of firearms and ammunition at standalone gun retail stores. The decision by the credit card companies is viewed by gun-safety advocates as an important action that will help law enforcement investigate gun crimes, prevent mass shootings, and combat illegal weapons trafficking.

In a letter today to the chief executives of Visa, American Express, and Mastercard, AG Healey joined 10 other Attorneys General in welcoming the three credit card companies’ decision to adopt the new merchant code as an important new public safety tool.

There have been hundreds of mass shootings in 2022 alone, and recent examples such as the supermarket mass shooting in Buffalo and the Uvalde elementary school massacre evidence the fact that gun violence is a national crisis.  It will require a collective effort, not just isolated acts, to turn the tide on gun-related violence and crime.

The letter anticipates that use of the new merchant code will yield vital information to fill crucial data “gaps” related to multiple purchases of firearms and ammunition. The letter points out that the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) has identified the failure by retailers to report the sale of two or more firearms to the same person at one time as a common legal violation. 

In addition, the letter notes, the code will enable financial institutions to track multiple sales to persons who seek to avoid the threshold for reporting gun purchases by making firearms purchases at several different retail outlets.

Another key advantage of the new merchant code, according to the letter, is that it will enable financial institutions and law enforcement to analyze transaction patterns associated with mass shootings by persons who have rapidly acquired weapons and large caches of ammunition.

The new code will also be a valuable adjunct to extreme risk protection order laws that many states – including Massachusetts – have enacted, the letter states.

While the bulk of today’s letter is devoted to applauding the new merchant code and commending the credit card industry’s readiness to “step up and do its part,” the letter also makes a point of dismissing as “fear mongering” arguments advanced by the gun industry and its supporters that the new code is an incursion on Second Amendment rights.

The code will have no bearing on an individual’s ability to lawfully purchase firearms, and is narrowly tailored so that it applies only to purchases made at independently-owned gun retail shops. The code does not prohibit lawful firearm sales or impose new regulations on them, the letter notes, and is “merely an administrative tool to gather data that would enhance law enforcement’s ability to do its job.” The letter also provides that, contrary to its detractors’ claims, the new merchant code will not be used to build a database of firearms owners.

Nor does the new code pose any more of a threat to consumer privacy than exists now through the application of many other merchant codes related to a broad range of consumer transactions including those at “supermarkets, florists, and bike shops, as well as many other retailers.” 

Today’s letter of support for the new firearms sale merchant code is led by New Jersey Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin, District of Columbia Attorney General Karl A. Racine, and Delaware Attorney General Kathy Jennings. In addition to the three co-leaders and AG Healey, attorneys general from the following states have signed-on to the letter of support: California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Minnesota, New York, and Oregon.

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Media Contact for AG Healey Joins Letter of Support for Major Credit Card Companies’ Adoption of New Merchant Code for Gun Sales by Arms Retailers

Office of Attorney General Maura Healey 

Attorney General Maura Healey is the chief lawyer and law enforcement officer of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
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