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Activists want credit card firms to flag firearm purchases — Analysis

Advocates for gun control argue that it will save lives as a result of rising US mass shootings

Gun control advocates are leaning on credit card companies to flag legal purchases of guns and ammunition as “suspicious,” a campaign from anti-gun lobbyists GunsDownAmerica and Giffords has revealed. The activists argue that mass shooters have “exploited” the banking system to obtain their arsenals and that it’s up to the industry to stop them.

Giffords tweeted a link on Sunday to GunsDownAmerica’s campaign to pressure MasterCard, Visa, and American Express into flagging these purchases “They should also report to police any known pattern of identity theft, fraud or human trafficking..” The groups are partners on the campaign.

Companies would need to redesignate some 9,000 independent gun shops to be able to flag them under the Merchant Category Code. The identifier that payment processors use to track customer spending is called the Merchant Category Code. There is currently no specific code for gun stores, which are usually listed as “sporting goods” shops – a loophole that gun control proponents insist must be closed.




GunsDownAmerica has accused the credit card processors of blocking an effort already underway to close it, claiming to be working “Closely” with union-owned Amalgamated Bank and Giffords to create the category code. Their failure to embrace such “Life-saving measures” amounts to “The empowerment of mass shooters,” the group charged.

The shooters in at least 5 mass shootings have stockpiled guns & ammo using credit cards and killed 145 people,” Giffords, founded by former Arizona congresswoman and gunshot victim Gabby Giffords, wrote in its promotional tweet.

GunsDownAmerica’s website partially unpacks those statistics, reporting that Pulse nightclub shooter Omar Mateen charged $26,000 in guns and ammo over just 12 days while he planned his massacre. The average analyst would not have noticed other shooters who bought guns and ammo to help save their lives. Stephen Paddock from Las Vegas charged $94,000 for credit cards to build his arsenal. But that was only 12 months. This reduces the chances of pattern recognition being used in pattern detection.

The campaign is not GunsDownAmerica’s first effort to use public shaming to pressure the financial sector into cracking down on gun sales, an aim that has thus far been impossible to achieve through legislative channels. Shortly after it was founded in 2018, the group petitioned Visa to refuse to process sales from companies that sold or manufactured “Attack weapons,” a non-technical term usually used to refer to AR-15 and similar semi-automatic rifles. Visa refused to take part.

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