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20 Jun 2022

Jim Axelrod, Clare Hymes, & Michael Kaplan, CBS News

Credit card companies allegedly blocked reforms to track suspicious gun purchases

"This bank wants to track suspect credit card sales of guns and ammo. Why can't it?" 20 Jun 2022

The credit card industry has blocked a novel effort to track suspect firearm and ammunition purchases, depriving law enforcement of a potential tool to identify and stop gun crime. 

Documents obtained by CBS News show employees from domestic and international credit card companies, including Visa, Mastercard and American Express, pushed back on an application to create a merchant category code for firearm and ammunition sellers.

... The documents show that the credit card industry employees were part of an internal committee within ISO that recommended the application's rejection.

... [CEO of Amalgamated Bank] Sims Brown said a merchant category code for firearm and ammunition sellers would yield data that could identify a transaction was made at a gun store, while not revealing which individual products were purchased.

... With a unique code for firearm and ammunition sellers, the bank said it could run software to detect purchases in the same way it detects evidence of other suspicious activity, like fraud and human trafficking.

... The International Standards Organization told CBS News the credit card companies were not responsible for the decision. Employees from those companies were serving in a personal capacity and "do not represent the views of their employer." Those who pushed to reject Amalgamated's application did so "based on their expertise," the organization said.

... In statements to CBS News, American Express and Mastercard both said they were working to ensure only lawful purchases were permitted on their networks, but offered no specifics. Visa declined to comment.