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Tennessee AG in coalition opposing use of system to track gun, ammo purchases by credit card companies

From Local 3 News: Tennessee Attorney General Jonathan Skrmetti, along with Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen is leading a coalition of 24 states alerting the CEOs of three major credit card companies that the recent creation of a Merchant Category Code for the processing of firearms purchases from gun stores is potentially a violation of consumer protection and antitrust laws.

A letter to American Express, Mastercard, and Visa, the AGs say the monitoring and tracking of firearms purchases creates a “list of gun buyers” and creates a risk that law-abiding consumers’ information will be obtained and misused by those who oppose Americans exercising their Second Amendment rights.

Joining Tennessee and Montana in the response are Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Wyoming, West Virginia.

“Giant financial companies must not use their combined market power to circumvent our representative democracy,” said Tennessee Attorney General Jonathan Skrmetti. “As Attorney General, I protect the people of Tennessee from corporate collusion that threatens to undermine their constitutional rights. Working together with my colleagues from other states, we will marshal the full scope of our lawful authority to stop this abuse.”

Earlier this month, credit card companies said they will implement a new merchant category code for the nation’s gun retailers, which gun control activists say will help flag potential mass shooters and gun traffickers.

The International Organization for Standardization, based in Geneva, approved the code’s use. The system will separately categorize sales at gun and ammunition stores, which advocates say can help track suspicious transactions of firearms and ammunition.

Visa, the world’s largest payment network, will “proceed with next steps” the company said in a statement Sunday, “while ensuring we protect all legal commerce on the Visa network in accordance with our long-standing rules.”

American Express said it will follow its usual business practices and work with third-party processors and partners to implement the code.

“We are focused on ensuring that we have the right controls in place to meet our regulatory and fiduciary responsibilities, as well as prevent illegal activity on our network,” the company said in a statement Sunday.

A statement from Mastercard noted that recent bipartisan action in Congress is a positive step in “meaningfully” addressing gun violence. Now that the ISO approved the new merchant category code, Mastercard said it is turning its focus to how the system will be implemented by merchants and their banks.

“We continue to support lawful purchases on our network while protecting the privacy and decisions of individual cardholders,” Mastercard said in a statement. “This is exactly how we would manage the process for any other appropriate MCC, like a bicycle shop or sporting goods store.”

Nearly every retail item has a merchant category code — prior to Friday’s decision by the ISO, gun store sales were classified under a general merchandise or sporting goods category.

Merchant codes track where a consumer used a credit card, but won’t flag what specific items were purchased. Gun rights activists have argued the code would unfairly surveil legal gun purchases.

“This is not about tracking or prevention or any virtuous motivation — it’s about creating a national registry of gun owners,” the NRA said.