NYC officials hail better tracking of gun purchases through new credit card codes

·2 min read

Credit card companies will now track the purchase of guns through soon-to-be-created merchant category codes — a development that New York politicians demanded two weeks ago and celebrated on Monday.

Under a decision Friday by the International Organization of Standardization, the entity which regulates the coded system, a new merchant category code will be put into place for standalone stores that hawk guns and ammo.

Amalgamated Bank made the application to the Organization of Standardization to create the new code.

“We won,” said Priscilla Sims Brown, the bank’s president and CEO. “This code can save lives. It’s existence will enable financial institutions and payment networks to categorize gun sales.”

Nearly two weeks ago, Mayor Adams and city Comptroller Brad Lander pointed to the city’s pension funds — with its sizeable investments in credit card companies — as a leverage point in getting those companies to do more when it comes to better tracking gun sales.

Typically, credit card companies categorize purchases based on type of merchant, attaching specific codes to grocery stores or bicycle shops, for example. But no such codes exist for gun and ammunition retailers — meaning purchases in those categories are listed as “miscellaneous” in credit card reports.

That is set to change with the new ISO decision, which Visa, Mastercard and American Express all have announced that they would comply with.

“Today’s decision requiring credit cards to categorize gun sales is a big victory that will help us better address gun violence and avoid tragedies,” said state Attorney General Letitia James. “I urge credit card companies to take the next step and flag suspicious transactions on gun and ammunition sales, like they do for fraud and money laundering. By working together and using the tools at our disposal, including this new categorization, we will help protect our communities and save lives.”