(The Center Square) – The international organization responsible for creating merchant category codes for credit card purchases has given its approval to establish one for transactions at gun stores.
The International Organization for Standardization’s Registration and Maintenance Management Group met on Wednesday to discuss a request by Amalgamated Bank to put such a code in place.
An ISO spokesperson told The Center Square that RMMG members could not decide whether or not to approve the request. This elevated the discussion to the direction of the ISO which oversees standards for retail financial services.
“Since the application met all of the criteria of ISO 18245 and no material argument regarding the approval criteria outlined in ISO 18245 to reject the code was advanced, SC9 management approved this request from MCC in order to comply with the standard,” the ISO said in a statement provided by Maria Lazarte, the organization’s team leader for media and engagement.
The move came less than a week after New York Attorney General Letitia James and California Attorney General Rob Bonta sent a letter to the CEOs of American Express, Mastercard and Visa, urging them to support a merchant category code. They asked for the code, noting that other industry-specific retailers have their own codes. Attorneys general also said it could help identify suspicious activity that could prevent a mass shooting or stop arms trafficking.
New York Governor Kathy Hochul on Wednesday morning also tweeted in favor of an MCC.
“Together we can help end the gun trade and keep New Yorkers safe,” she posted.
Opponents of the measure included the National Rifle Association and the National Shooting Sports Foundation.
In a statement to The Center Square, Mark Oliva, the organization’s managing director for public affairs, criticized the move, saying the code’s creation was “faulty on its premise. Those who believe this will help law enforcement do not provide details on what should be considered suspicious purchases.”
“This ruling chills the free exercise of constitutionally protected rights and does nothing to help law enforcement prevent crime or hold criminals accountable,” he said. “The Department of Justice’s Bureau of Forensic Statistics consistently shows in its own reports that 90% of felons convicted of their crimes involving a firearm admit to having obtained these weapons illegally through theft or black market trading. Attaching specific codes to gun and ammunition purchases casts a dark veil over gun control advocates who are only interested in disarming legitimate gun owners.
Oliva added that MCC supporters actually hope to stop credit card purchases of arms and ammunition.
“Credit card companies have publicly resisted this before because they understand it is not in their interest to monitor legitimate private purchases,” he added.
It is unclear at this time when the MCC would come into effect.
American Express, through a statement provided by Vice President of Corporate Affairs and Communications, Andrew Johnson, said it will follow standard business practices, as it does whenever ISO develops a new MCC.
“It is important to note that MCC codes are one of many data points that help us understand the industries in which our traders operate,” the statement said. “We strive to ensure that we have the right controls in place to meet our regulatory and fiduciary responsibilities, as well as to prevent illegal activity on our network.”
Messages to James, Hochul, Mastercard, Visa and Amalgamated Bank were not immediately returned.