NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — The Tennessee Attorney General is helping lead a coalition of 23 other states fighting against three major credit card companies that plan to begin tracking gun purchases through merchant category codes.
Visa, Mastercard and American Express recently created merchant category codes for retail gun stores in an effort to help combat gun violence and mass shootings. The companies will be able to see when consumers purchase from a retail gun store, and where. They can alert law enforcement of purchases they find suspicious.
The AG’s office said in a press release Tuesday that the new codes potentially violate consumer protection and antitrust laws and are an attempt to monitor and scrutinize gun merchants and consumers.
The coalition of attorneys general wrote a letter to Visa, Mastercard and American Express which listed what the group believes are potential dangers of the codes, including how the codes would give credit card companies the ability to create a list of gun buyers, which they wrote poses the risk that law-abiding consumers’ information will be obtained and misused by those who oppose Americans exercising their Second Amendment rights.
The attorneys general added the codes unfairly single out law-abiding merchants and consumers.
Royal Range retail associate and YouTube video creator, Mahari Stribling, described the tracking of people’s gun purchases as “eerie.”
“If you purchase components to make a pipe bomb, you’re pinged, and I feel like that makes sense, but I also feel like for most legal, law-abiding citizens, [tracking gun purchases] is kind of overkill,” Stribling said.
Stribling believes the measure likely won’t help combat gun violence, because he said the majority of people who commit those crimes don’t buy their firearms from a retail store, but instead steal them or get them from a family member.
A study from 2016 found those charged with crimes involving guns were less likely to buy them legally. The study said around 56% of inmates admitted they stole the gun they used during their crime.
Visa said the merchant category codes do not give the company the ability to see what a consumer buys from a gun store, only that a transaction was made.
However, Stribling said that would make the measure more ineffective in catching criminals before they commit a crime using a gun because companies cannot tell if someone bought a gun or gear from a retail store.
Stribling said the most alarming part of the merchant category codes is the potential violation of privacy.
“That’s part of what makes America, America, right?” Stribling said. “Privacy, freedom of speech, all things that are being hindered now. Privacy is number one. I feel like it’s no one’s business, especially a credit card company’s business.”
The credit card companies said they would not use the merchant category codes to prevent someone from legally buying a gun.