Gun Violence Prevention Groups Deliver Letters Demanding Credit Card Companies Take Action to Prevent Gun Trafficking and Mass Shootings

September 6, 2022

Broad Coalition of Gun Violence Prevention Advocates, Attorneys General, and Congress are Demanding Action

WASHINGTON, D.C. – A coalition of national gun violence prevention groups including Guns Down America, Brady, Giffords, and New Yorkers Against Gun Violence have delivered letters to Visa, Mastercard, and American Express urging them to help keep our communities safe by taking all necessary and appropriate steps to ensure bad actors are not exploiting our nation’s financial system to carry out mass shootings and illicitly traffic firearms.

Some of the nation’s worst mass shootings, including Aurora Colorado; San Bernardino, California; Orlando’s Pulse and Las Vegas involved electronic payments. The letters call on the credit card companies to help law enforcement preempt mass shootings and firearm trafficking by identifying suspicious patterns of firearms and ammunition purchases through a new Merchant Category Code (MCC) for the country’s 9,000 federally licensed gun and ammunition dealers. Such a code is absolutely essential for monitoring suspicious purchases and activities and helping law enforcement prevent individuals from carrying out acts of domestic terror, or engage in firearm trafficking and straw purchasing.

“Credit card purchases have consistently been involved in some of our nation’s worst mass shootings. Now is the time for major credit card companies to stop stalling and take action,” said Igor Volsky, Founder and Executive Director of Guns Down America. “Credit card companies have rules to stop fraud and human trafficking. We are asking they put the same common-sense rules in place for guns, making it easier to stop illegal firearms-related activity.”

“If Visa, Mastercard, and American Express created a dedicated code for gun and ammunition purchases, it would be possible to detect and deter illegal gun trafficking, prevent mass shootings, and save lives,” said Adam Skaggs, chief counsel and policy director, Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. “Americans should be asking why these companies are blocking progress, and why they are not taking steps to address gun violence. It’s long past due that these companies offer answers.”

"Too many lives are lost to gun violence in the U.S. for credit card companies to sit on their hands and do nothing, especially when they have a real opportunity to prevent these tragedies," said Brady Senior Counsel and Director of Programs Josh Scharff. "Having a dedicated process to flag behaviors associated with firearms trafficking and mass shootings is a common-sense way for them to save lives. It's time for companies like Visa, Mastercard, and American Express to be part of the solution to reducing gun violence, because lives depend on it."

View the letters here:

CNBC previously reported, “The shooter who killed 59 people at a Las Vegas music festival in 2017, for example, charged over $90,000 on credit cards prior to the shooting. The New York Times reported that the shooter had opened six new credit card accounts over the months prior, and twelve days before the shooting, began an over $26,000 firearm and ammunition buying spree. Before that, his average spending was only a mere $1,500 a month. If these gun purchases had been tagged with a [a merchant category code], Brown said, the credit card companies would have been notified of this alarming pattern. To date, both Visa and Mastercard are against a firearms merchant code.”

The letters come following a growing push from law enforcement and public officials asking the credit card companies to do better. A letter last week led by Sen. Elizabeth Warren and signed by dozens of members of Congress urged the companies to take action. New York Mayor Eric Adams led a press conference demanding the companies take action. The New York and California attorneys general have also demanded the companies take action.