Unique Merchant Code Approved To Track Gun Sales Paid Via Credit Card

An international standards body approved a new merchant code that will apply to gun sellers for transactions using credit card networks like Visa and Mastercard

Few rifles remain on the shelf at Caso’s Gun-A-Rama store on March 25, 2021 in Jersey City, New Jersey. Caso’s Gun-A-Rama has had a significant increase in business with lines often out the door as more people buy guns for security and for fear that there will be increased bans on them. Spencer Platt / Staff via Getty Images

(Payments Dive) An international standards organization has approved creating a unique merchant category code (MCC) for gun and ammunition sellers, producing a new means to track their sales made via card payments.

The International Organization for Standardization approved the change, proposed by Amalgamated Bank, at a Wednesday meeting, according to a statement from Geneva, Switzerland-based ISO emailed to Payments Dive.


The code became a contentious issue for Visa, Mastercard and other card companies in the wake of active-shooter incidents in recent years that showed guns and ammunition had been purchased with their cards as part of a payments system that didn’t track such merchants.

Following the shootings in Uvalde, Texas, and Highland Park, Illinois, in recent months, there was increased pressure from state officials, pension leaders and gun-control advocates for ISO and the big card companies to approve a new code.

After one ISO group considering the bank’s application was unable to reach a decision Wednesday, the application was put before another ISO committee that met the same day, an ISO spokesperson said in the email. With the application satisfying necessary criteria “and no material arguments” to reject the code, that group approved the application “to comply with the standard,” the ISO statement said.

The decision comes days after members of Congress and attorneys general in California and New York, as well as major pension systems in their states, urged Visa, Mastercard and American Express to back the creation of the new code for gun sellers, which they had previously opposed.

Professionals from those U.S. card companies serve on ISO committees. Advocates have said the code could help track troublesome gun purchases.

“With ISO approving the proposed MCC, we now turn our focus to how it will be implemented by merchants and their banks as we continue to support lawful purchases on our network while protecting the privacy and decisions of individual cardholders,” Mastercard spokesman Seth Eisen said in an email. “This is exactly how we would manage the process for any other appropriate MCC, like a bicycle shop or sporting goods store.”

Visa didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Following the ISO approval, Amalgamated Bank called the code “the key” for creating new tools financial institutions must use to report activity that may be related to gun trafficking and mass shootings to the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, the bank said in a press release.

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