Shameful: Visa and Mastercard Delay Their Obligation to Prevent Credit Cards From Being Used in Mass Shootings and Gun Trafficking

March 10, 2023

Visa, Mastercard Flip-Flop After They Previously 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 Visa and Mastercard flip-flopped from a commitment to implement a new Merchant Category Code (MCC) 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.

Many mass shooters rely on bank credit to buy the guns, ammunition, and body armor they need to cause mass tragedy. For example, the shooter who killed 59 people at a Las Vegas music festival in 2017 charged over $90,000 on credit cards prior to the shooting. The Pulse Nightclub shooter opened six new credit card accounts and spent $26,000 on firearms and ammunition, all the while Googling “why banks stop your purchases.” Before that, his average spending was a mere $1,500 a month.

“Banks routinely use transaction data to protect from fraudulent purchases, identify stolen credit cards, detect money laundering, identify funding of terrorist organizations, or flag the suspicious purchasing patterns associated with human trafficking – all while following laws that protect customer privacy,” said Igor Volsky, Executive Director of Guns Down America. “This decision from Visa and Mastercard is short-sighted and political and we will hold them accountable for any delays in implementing this common-sense tool.”

"It is shameful to hear reports that credit card companies Visa and Mastercard have caved to the gun lobby's transparent political ploys. If true, Visa and Mastercard are choosing political expediency over American lives. Make no mistake, Americans will continue to suffer and die as a result of this deadly decision. Having a dedicated process to flag troubling and suspicious firearms purchases, like they already do to detect other fraudulent purchases, is a common-sense strategy for companies to save lives and prevent the next mass shooting,” said Brady President Kris Brown. “We urge Visa and Mastercard to correct their course immediately. The choice they have now is clear: adopt this new tool at their disposal to prevent gun violence, or drag their feet while gun violence devastates our communities across the country. Every delay of action results in more lives needlessly taken."

Adam Skaggs, Chief Counsel & Vice President, Giffords Law Center, said: “It’s time for companies like Visa and Mastercard to show courage in standing up against gun lobby lies and threats, instead of caving to political posturing from Republicans in a handful of states. Law enforcement has spoken loud and clear that utilizing the new credit card code has the potential to deter mass shootings and stop illegal gun trafficking, so these credit card companies need to explain why they’d apparently rather side with mass shooters and gun traffickers than law enforcement. This is a terrible decision as a matter of policy, and it’s a bad business decision too, with the potential to expose these companies to liability for millions of dollars in damages if they could have detected warning signs for another mass shooting or homicide with an illegally trafficked weapon and chose instead to bury their heads in the sand. Shareholders should be as disappointed as law enforcement, and should call for Visa and Mastercard to do the right thing.”

The Merchant Category Code will allow the industry to learn and identify suspicious purchasing patterns associated with mass shooters, firearm traffickers, and straw purchasers and empower law enforcement to potentially stop criminals before they strike.


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 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.

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.