Why Are Credit Card Companies Empowering Mass Shooters?

Between 2007 and 2020, the killers in at least five major mass shootings used credit cards to finance their deadly rampages. These individuals exploited the banking system to purchase large quantities of firearms and ammunition – and the financial industry has the power to stop them.

But Visa, MasterCard, and American Express are blocking an effort to track suspicious firearm and ammunition purchases and preventing law enforcement from identifying and stopping gun crimes.

Since 2018, Guns Down America and our partners have urged the financial industry to prevent bad actors from abusing the banking system to obtain large quantities of firearms and ammunition and using the firepower they purchase on bank credit to take innocent lives. These killers often follow known patterns of suspicious behavior:

  • In 2012, the shooter who killed 12 people in Aurora, CO charged $9,000 on credit cards to purchase guns, ammunition, and body armor in just 2 months.
  • In 2016, the shooter who killed 49 people in Orlando, FL charged $26,000 on credit cards to purchase guns and ammunition in just 12 days.
  • In 2017, the shooter who killed 60 people in Las Vegas, NV charged $94,000 on credit cards to purchase guns and ammunition over a period of 12 months.

Banks can and must flag such suspicious activity in the same way that they report known patterns of identity theft, fraud, or human trafficking to law enforcement officials.

But to do so, the nation’s nearly 9,000 stand-alone gun and ammunition stores must be categorized under a new and unique Merchant Category Code within the financial system. Since no such code currently exists and gun stores are sometimes classified as “sporting goods” retailers, banks have no way of knowing that bad actors are suspiciously purchasing thousands of dollars of firearms and ammunition over a short period of time.

Guns Down America is working closely with Amalgamated Bank and Giffords to establish the necessary Merchant Category Code. But Visa, MasterCard, and American Express are actively blocking our efforts and standing in the way of life-saving reforms.

As Amalgamated Bank CEO Priscilla Sims Brown put it, the financial industry has "an obligation to address crime that is being facilitated through our system.”

Urge Visa, MasterCard, and American Express to stop empowering mass shooters and do their part to keep us safe from preventable gun violence.