Visa and MasterCard have paused efforts to implement a merchant code that would identify firearms and firearms related purchases Thursday, according to Bloomberg.
The companies, alongside Discover Financial Services, opted to pause their work just days after announcing a start date, as multiple pieces of legislation were introduced to block the International Organization for Standardization’s (ISO) code that is specially designated for gun purchases, according to Bloomberg. The initiative was first announced in September after the ISO approved the code, leading multiple Republican leaders and gun advocates to condemn the initiative as a back-door firearms registry.
“Visa and Mastercard came to the correct conclusion. However, they shouldn’t just ‘pause’ their implementation of this plan—they should end it definitively. Discover and American Express should do the same,” Republican Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen said in a statement Thursday. “This measure will do nothing to improve public safety while invading consumer privacy and inviting coordination between corporations and government agencies to erode Americans’ fundamental right to keep and bear arms.”
Knudson led a 24-state coalition in September that called on the CEOs of Visa, MasterCard, and American Express to abandon the initiative, saying it would potentially violate consumer protection and antitrust laws.“It’s extremely disappointing to see credit card companies cave to pressure from international bodies and adopt this measure that will do nothing to improve public safety,” Knudsen said at the time.
“There are bills advancing in several states related to the use of this new code,” a spokesman for MasterCard told Bloomberg. The bills could create “inconsistency” and “for that reason that we have decided to pause work on the implementation of the firearms-specific MCC.”
Gun advocacy groups believe the code could be used to track Americans. “If governments or credit card companies start to require certain purchase patterns at gun stores be reported to police, that could put a lot of innocent people under suspicion depending on how broad the criteria are,” Stephen Gutowski, a gun expert who founded The Reload, told the DCNF after the announcement.
The ISO was founded in 1947 and votes on global standards for business transactions. Banks are not required to use the ISO merchant codes, but the four-digit sales codes work to classify merchants based on the goods and services they provide.
The new code diverges from the current system, opting to separate firm purchases into their own category instead of lumping them in as either “5999: Miscellaneous retail stores” or “5941: Sporting Goods Stores.”
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