For years, Guns Down America and our partners have urged the financial industry to do their part to prevent would-be mass shooters and gun traffickers from abusing the banking system to obtain large quantities of firearms and ammunition. These killers often follow known patterns of suspicious behavior and use the firepower they purchase on bank credit to take innocent lives:
- 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 stand-alone gun and ammunition stores must be categorized under a new and unique Merchant Category Code within the financial system. Currently, gun stores are categorized as "sporting goods" or "miscellaneous" because no specific label existed. Guns Down America worked closely with Amalgamated Bank, Giffords, and Brady to establish the necessary Merchant Category Code, and their effort was successful in September of 2022. But now GOP leaders are trying to force credit card companies to reject the code.
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.”
Credit card companies and banks have a responsibility to address the crime that is being facilitated through their networks and the new merchant category code for stand-alone gun dealers will empower them to do so. Now, we must ensure that these entities swiftly implement the new code across their networks and begin the process of building out the systems necessary to flag known patterns of criminal activity and report them to the proper law enforcement authorities.
Newly released data shows that in 2021, we lost 48,832 Americans to firearm homicides, suicides, unintentional shootings, and law enforcement activities, with Black and Hispanic communities experiencing a disproportionate rate of gun deaths.
This growing crisis only underscores the importance of all of us working together to reduce gun deaths. Credit card companies can play a pivotal role in helping keep their customers, employees, and communities safe and we will work to ensure that they live up to that responsibility.