AG calls on credit card companies to categorize gun sales


New York Attorney General Letitia James and California Attorney General Rob Bonta sent a letter to three major credit card companies on Friday urging them to create a specific category for all arms and ammunition sales.

James and Bonta wrote to MasterCard, Visa and American Express asking for a new merchant category code to report suspicious activity to law enforcement, including purchases of large firearms or ammunition. The category code could help police prevent gun violence and reduce the risk of illegal gun trafficking, the letter said.

“Credit card companies categorize purchases on almost everything from groceries to gasoline to clothing, but no categories exist for the multi-billion dollar firearms and ammunition industry. “, Attorney General James said in a statement. “Categorizing gun sales can help us work with our law enforcement partners to address gun violence and save lives. This is a common sense solution that credit card companies can implement to help keep New Yorkers and all Americans safe.

Most credit card purchases are tagged with a four-digit merchant category code, but none exist for gun sales, attorneys general say. Several people who have carried out mass killings in recent years have purchased their weapons with a credit card.

Credit card companies use merchant category codes to flag money laundering or terrorism risks.

“We must use every tool in our toolbox to combat the deadly threat of gun violence,” AG Bonta said in a statement. “It means everyone in this country, including the credit card companies, has an important role to play in our fight to save lives and end senseless violence. Today, two of the largest states with two of the toughest gun safety laws are joining forces to demand credit card companies create a spending category that would help law enforcement order to better identify terrorism and firearms trafficking. It has never been more urgent – people are dying from gun violence every day. Gun violence prevention is everyone’s business: from law enforcement to business leaders to community members.

Gun violence kills more than 40,000 Americans each year and is the leading cause of death among children and adolescents, according to James’ office.

Representatives from credit card company registration and management groups evaluate and vote on new merchant categories. Merchant category codes must be distinct from all industries that have a code, and the minimum annual sales and volume of merchants included in the category must be at least $10 million to qualify, according to the attorney general’s office.

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