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Credit Card Companies Begin Tracking Firearm Purchases

You may have heard about a recent announcement by Visa, which American Express and Mastercard subsequently agreed to, to use a newly created purchase code for firearms so that all firearms sales can be tracked.

Specifically, The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) approved a 4 digit code for gun and ammo retailers to track sales, as they do for other types of consumer goods. 

This policy change was pushed by activists on the dubious premise that it will allow law enforcement to better track suspicious gun purchases.

In response to this announcement, gun restrictions groups cheered while pro-2nd Amendment activists were furious and deeply concerned.

In the words of Everytown for Gun Safety President John Feinblatt,

“Today’s announcement is a critical first step towards giving banks and credit card companies the tools they need to recognize dangerous firearm purchasing trends – like a domestic extremist building up an arsenal — and report them to law enforcement.”

There are several big, obvious flaws in this line of thinking:

  1. According to the US Justice Department, “…only 7% of those who had a gun while committing their offense had purchased that weapon under their name from a licensed dealer.”
  2. Only about 50% of ALL guns are purchased at retailers, with gun shows, online sales, and direct sales, legally or on the black market, accounting for the balance, as well as the vast majority used in crimes.
  3. Many retailers that sell guns such as Bass Pro Shops and Walmart, will still be listed as sporting goods and general merchandise respectively.
  4. The code isn’t “product specific.” That means the system can’t distinguish between a gun store buyer of a handgun, from an ammo buyer, from a target buyer, from a cleaning kit buyer, and so on.
  5. If you want to cover up your purchases, you can always use cash, prepaid cards, or split the purchase across multiple credit cards
Gun purchased with cash dollars

But go back to John Feinblatt’s quote above, “…a critical first step…”

While the new code is unlikely to have much immediate impact on crime, or even lawful gun owners, it establishes a concerning foundation for other, more aggressive actions by private companies, with the tacit support of government.

While that is certainly grounds for concern and vigilance on the part of gun rights activists, they may be getting an assist from an unlikely ally…the left.

Specifically, concerns exist on both sides of the political isle regarding how this type of data may be used in the future to track, for example, abortions or political contributions that aren’t otherwise required to be disclosed.

That leads to another important consideration which is how courts will view this kind of information. It’s not hard to see this issue on a collision course with the Supreme Court. That court, in its current composition, seems unlikely to permit mass surveillance and reporting of ostensibly legal activities.  

That may make the gun owners more comfortable than abortion supporters, at any rate, but in a free society, should we even need to talk about this at all?

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