Tuesday, July 18, 2023

States Supporting Gun Rights Thwart Credit Card Firearm Registry Plan


Image Jim Grant

In September of the previous year, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) assigned a new Merchant Category Code (MCC) to firearm vendors. In response, the NRA-ILA has been proactively reaching out to key players in the financial industry, as well as state legislators and legal officials, informing them of gun owners' concerns and urging them to take action. So far, various states and their legal representatives have undertaken significant actions to safeguard American citizens' Second Amendment rights and personal privacy.

Major credit card companies, American Express, Mastercard, and Visa, announced a pause in the application of the new code on March 9, citing strong resistance to the acceptance of a firearm vendor MCC. This decision was triggered by state legislative action to restrict the use of the firearm retailer MCC, as reported by Reuters.

A bit of context: the ISO is a non-governmental organization based in Geneva that comprises a network of international and industry "standards bodies" that facilitate consensus. MCCs are utilized by payment processing companies like Visa and Mastercard, and other financial services firms to categorize transactions. This allows these companies to recognize, monitor, and gather data on certain transaction types. Before the ISO's decision, firearm vendors were classified under the MCC for sports goods stores or miscellaneous retail.

The adoption of the new MCC was prompted by Amalgamated Bank, despite opposition from industry stakeholders. Amalgamated Bank proudly positions itself as a left-leaning political initiative, expressing its commitment to supporting candidates, political parties, action committees, and organizations striving to drive progressive change.

Why is this concerning? Supporters of the new MCC have been transparent about their ambition to leverage the code to enforce stricter gun control through a public-private alliance. Amalgamated Bank plans to establish a software algorithm using the MCC to notify authorities of "suspicious activities" and unlawful gun sales. However, the definition of "suspicious activity" remains vague. Considering that firearm purchases from retail stores already involve an FBI National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) check, such "suspicious activity" would likely target lawful gun sales.

As explained by the New York Times, this gun control scheme would work in tandem with the federal government, with banks either allowing or blocking the transactions flagged as suspicious. These would then be reported to the Treasury Department's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, which ideally would relay this information promptly to local law enforcement and the FBI.

Collecting financial transaction data from firearm retailers essentially means surveillance and registration of law-abiding gun owners. The proponents of this scheme are known to advocate against the privacy of firearm owners and support firearm and gun owner registration. Therefore, it can be assumed that the ultimate aim of this program is to share all collected MCC data with government authorities and potentially private third parties, including anti-gun researchers and gun control organizations.

Federal law currently prohibits the establishment of a national firearms registry, and this creation of an MCC could be seen as an attempt to bypass these restrictions. With President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris openly supporting gun confiscation, the risks posed by firearm registration have escalated.

Additionally, this plan offers a mechanism to restrict and monitor those who exercise their First Amendment rights in ways that could displease gun control advocates or the federal government. As an example, Everytown for Gun Safety's president John Feinblatt suggested, "Banks should report dangerous warning signs to law enforcement when extremists are quickly building up massive stockpiles of guns." In September 2022, President Joe Biden defined "extremism" to include "Donald Trump and the MAGA Republicans."

In the first half of 2023, several states passed legislation to prohibit or discourage the use of the firearm retailer MCC.

As of March 11, West Virginia Governor Jim Justice signed HB 2004.
As of April 5, Idaho Governor Brad Little signed HB 295.
As of April 13, Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves signed HB 1110.
As of April 29, North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum signed HB 1487.
As of May 12, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed SB 214.
As of May 19, Montana Governor Greg Gianforte signed SB 359.
As of June 10, Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed HB 2837.
While the details of these bills differ, they generally prohibit financial institutions from requiring firearm vendors to use a specific MCC, thus preserving the status quo prior to September 2022.

For example, Texas law stipulates that a financial institution or its agent may not require the usage of the firearms code in a way that distinguishes a firearms retailer physically located in Texas from Texas general merchandise retailers or sporting goods retailers.

The law in Texas enables the attorney general to investigate financial institutions suspected of violating the MCC restriction and imposes civil penalties on those persisting in their illegal conduct. Furthermore, those affected by an institution's MCC violations may file a lawsuit to obtain equitable relief.

West Virginia went a step further by allowing customers and merchants to file a civil lawsuit for damages against entities that misuse the firearm retailer MCC. Successful plaintiffs may recover liquidated damages or actual damages, whichever is greater.

Despite significant victories in states like Florida and Texas in defending the rights of lawful gun owners, anti-gun lawmakers in some jurisdictions are still trying to exploit the firearm retailer MCC to attack the Second Amendment.

For instance, in California, AB-1587 is currently being considered by the state legislature. This bill would require financial institutions to assign the ISO's "merchant category code for firearms and ammunition businesses" to any "firearm merchant," a term that even includes those selling just firearm accessories or ammunition.

As anti-gun regions attempt to enforce the firearm retailer MCC on lawful gun owners and retailers, supporters of the Second Amendment must stay alert. Early wins against this gun control scheme have demonstrated the effectiveness of committed gun rights activists, but future confrontations on this issue will require an equally resolute determination.

No comments:

Post a Comment