Credit Card Companies Going Forward with Gun Purchase Code in California

Posted by Jack Collins on Feb 14, 2024

This week, major credit card companies announced they would generate a new type of code to label all firearm purchases nationwide. American Express, Visa, and Mastercard have all implemented the new code to comply with new California laws.

Gun control activists are calling the new code another instance of “common-sense gun reform.” However, the codes set a dangerous precedent and effectively function as a backdoor gun registry. Here’s how the situation breaks down.

How the Codes Work

Currently, credit card companies use a code system to identify the type of business a company does. There are a ton of different categories for merchant codes, and they can get pretty specific. For example, one code refers specifically to boat dealers, while another signifies a snowmobile dealer.

This new policy would create a new code specifically for gun shops. Currently, firearms sellers are grouped in with sporting goods retailers or miscellaneous retailers.

Gun control advocates say that authorities could track gun purchases with these codes. If someone bought too many guns in too short an amount of time, it could alert authorities to potential crimes before they happen.

Credit card companies have until 2025 to comply with the bill under California law.

Why it Matters

Credit card companies initially paused implementation of the new purchase code after backlash from Second Amendment advocates. Gun rights supporters pointed out that this new code would essentially function as a de facto gun registry.

Anyone with access to a buyer’s credit card history would be able to see that they’d purchased something from a vendor marked with a firearms credit card code. While the general public doesn’t have access to this information, government agencies do. This code would essentially create a database of gun owners that agencies can search with a subpoena.

What’s more, the code would enable hackers to learn who has guns in their homes. Hackers could then act on this information themselves or sell it to other criminals. Before you decry this as science fiction, it’s not. In fact, it’s already happened before.

This code would also allow lenders or insurance companies to see who has purchased firearms in the past. This could potentially put gun owners’ livelihoods at risk.

Final Thoughts

Robert B. Thompson III, a senior VP at Visa, has said that the company will only apply the code to purchases in California at the moment.

"Given the conflicting state laws on this topic and the likelihood that other states will enact legislation to either restrict or mandate the code, our implementation pause remains in effect,” he said.

The California law was the result of efforts from Guns Down America, a gun control nonprofit. The organization is affiliated with the Invest in Us coalition, which also includes Everytown and Moms Demand Action and has received money from the Biden Administration.

We have absolutely not heard the last of this story. We’ll keep you updated as the situation develops.