Unconscionable: New Florida Bill Interferes with Tool For Police to Prevent Mass Shootings And Gun Trafficking

February 21, 2023

Visa, Mastercard and American Express Have All Agreed to Follow New Rules to Crack Down on Illegal Gun-Related Activity Involving Credit Cards

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Advocates and survivors of gun violence released the following statements after a bill advanced in Florida seeking to penalize the financial industry for implementing a new Merchant Category Code for stand-alone gun dealers. The new code will allow the industry to identify the suspicious purchasing patterns associated with individuals intent on carrying out mass shootings or trafficking firearms and empower law enforcement to stop them before they strike.

“By seeking to prevent the financial industry from identifying and flagging the purchasing patterns associated with mass shooters and gun traffickers, supporters of this bill are undermining the ability of law enforcement to stop illegal firearms-related activity,” said Igor Volsky, Founder and Executive Director of Guns Down America. “It is shocking that at a time when gun violence is at a record high, politicians in Florida would recklessly side with the gun lobby and push for allowing mass shooters and gun traffickers to obtain the firepower they need to carry out mass tragedies, placing the lives of constituents and even their very own families at risk.”

Adam Skaggs, Chief Counsel and Vice President, Giffords Law Center, said: “Credit card companies have dedicated codes for retailers of almost every consumer good that’s out there, and there is no reason for the firearms industry to get different, preferential treatment.  Using a dedicated code for gun and ammo sales will provide law enforcement with a tool that can help detect and deter illegal gun trafficking and other criminal acts, and it won’t prevent any law-abiding Americans from buying guns or ammo. Period. Lawmakers attempting to prohibit use of the dedicated code aren’t doing anything to protect anyone’s right to bear arms, they’re protecting the ability for criminals and other people legally prohibited from having guns to arm themselves.”

Christian Heyne, Vice President of Policy and Programs, Brady, said: “At a time when this country is witnessing record levels of gun violence we are horrified to see state legislatures, often those representing the highest gun death rates in the country, take on the bidding of the gun lobby rather than working to meaningfully address this public health epidemic. These legislatures are actively undermining law enforcement's ability to prevent the flow of illegal guns in communities and the mass casualty shootings that have become uniquely American and all too routine. Having a dedicated process for financial institutions to use preventative practices that have proven critical in other spaces is common sense and will save lives. These bills would remove any incentive for credit card companies to take these simple steps to help prevent the next mass shooting. Our legislators should be working to pass laws to protect the American people, rather than wasting taxpayer dollars by intentionally undermining practices that will prevent tragedies from occurring in the first place.”

Last year, a committee at the International Standards Organization (ISO), paved the way for 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. Some of the nation’s worst mass shootings, including Aurora, Colorado; San Bernardino, California; Orlando; and Las Vegas involved electronic payments.

Until this decision, gun retailers were one of the few merchants in the country without an MCC.

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.”

The decision came after a growing push from law enforcement and public officials asking the credit card companies to do better. The New York and California attorneys general were among public officials demanding that credit card companies take action.