Victory! Gun Violence Prevention Groups and Amalgamated Bank Applaud New Method for Financial System to Crack Down on Mass Shootings and Gun Trafficking
September 9, 2022
Decision Comes Following Years of Advocacy from Gun Violence Prevention Organizations and Amalgamated Bank; Credit Card Companies Now Obligated to Take Action
WASHINGTON, D.C. – A coalition of national gun violence prevention groups including Guns Down America, Giffords, Brady, New Yorkers Against Gun Violence and Amalgamated Bank have applauded a new decision from credit card companies to take bolder steps to ensure bad actors are not exploiting our nation’s financial system to carry out mass shootings and illicitly traffic firearms.
The decision, made by a committee at the International Standards Organization (ISO) paves 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.
“We are grateful that the financial sector has stopped stalling and finally understands the problem, which is that credit card purchases have consistently been involved in some of our nation’s worst mass shootings. Credit card companies have rules to stop fraud and human trafficking. This common-sense decision means the same rules will apply to guns, making it easier to stop illegal firearms-related activity,” said Igor Volsky, Founder and Executive Director of Guns Down America. “We are grateful for the work of Amalgamated Bank in making this happen. Now we will work to make sure the credit card companies implement these new changes without delay.”
“The epidemic of gun violence in America continues to worsen, and requires that we leave no stone unturned in seeking to save lives. We therefore commend Amalgamated Bank for its courageous leadership in demonstrating that the financial industry, too, has a part to play,” said Adam Skaggs, chief counsel and policy director, Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. “Creating a dedicated merchant category code for gun sales is only the first step, though, and we look forward to working with Visa, Mastercard, and American Express to ensure swift efforts to ensure uniform and comprehensive use of this new code.”
“We all have to do our part to stop gun violence,” said Priscilla Sims Brown, President and CEO of Amalgamated Bank. “And it sometimes starts with illegal purchases of guns and ammunition. The new code will allow us to fully comply with our duty to report suspicious activity and illegal gun sales to authorities without blocking or impeding legal gun sales. This action answers the call of millions of Americans who want safety from gun violence and we are proud to lead a broad coalition of advocates, shareholders, and elected officials to achieve this historic outcome.”
“We’re thankful to Amalgamated Bank for their leadership on establishing a merchant category code for firearms dealers,” said Kris Brown, Brady President. “This small change to business practices will help identify illegal or suspicious activity to stop shootings before they happen and save lives. We call on financial institutions to work with us to institute these new changes.”
“Thanks to the leadership of Amalgamated Bank, credit card companies can now implement coding systems that will prevent illegal gun purchase transactions and reduce gun violence,” said Rebecca Fischer, Executive Director of New Yorkers Against Gun Violence. "Now that credit card companies have the power to trace gun purchases, we urge Visa, Mastercard, and American Express to quickly follow suit and implement this straightforward, life-saving process.”
The decision follows 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.
The coalition previously sent letters to the credit card companies asking that they support a merchant category code. 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."