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Visa, Mastercard pause decision to track gun store purchases


NEW YORK (AP) — Visa and Mastercard paused their decision to begin categorizing gun store purchases, a major victory for conservative groups and Second Amendment advocates who felt tracking gun store purchases would unintentionally discriminate against legal firearm purchases.

The decision is also a defeat for arms control groups. There was hope that categorizing credit and debit card purchases would allow authorities to see potential red flags — such as significant ammunition purchases — before a mass shooting could occur.

After Visa and Mastercard announced their plans to introduce a separate merchant category code for gun store purchases, the payment networks faced significant opposition from both the gun lobby and conservative politicians.. A group of 24 GOP attorneys general wrote a letter to the payment networks threatening legal action against Visa and Mastercard if they went through with their plan.

There are also bills pending in several state legislatures that would ban the tracking of gun store purchases, which would have made it even more difficult for Visa and Mastercard to implement the categorization.

In a statement, Visa said the legal pushback was part of the reason they paused their implementation.

“There is now significant confusion and legal uncertainty in the payments ecosystem, and the actions of the state distort the intent of global standards,” the company said.

Visa and Mastercard have said the reason for the gun store category was a decision beyond their control. The International Organization for Standardization, better known as ISO, is the group that categorizes merchant codes, and Visa and Mastercard just followed suit. Gun control advocates lobbied for the move to ISO, not Visa and Mastercard.

Furthermore, Visa and Mastercard’s plan would not have tracked individual gun purchases. It would instead have broken out purchases from gun stores as a separate category. But not all major gun store purchases would have been considered a red flag.

For example, a purchase of a gun safe, costing several thousand dollars, would have been viewed as a major purchase at a gun store, even though the safe is considered responsible gun ownership and not related to potential mass shootings.

“Visa and Mastercard came to the right conclusion. However, they shouldn’t just “pause” the implementation of this plan — they should put a permanent end to it,” said Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen, who led the 24-state GOP group to pressure Visa and Mastercard. to drop the standard, in a statement.

Joanna Swanson

Joanna Swanson is Europe correspondent at the Thomson Reuters Foundation based in Brussels covering politics, culture, business, climate change, society, economies and inclusive tech. With specific focus in breaking news, she has covered some of the world's most significant stories.