September 30, 2022
Payment Processor Visa to Start Classifying Sales at Gun Stores

NEW YORK (AP) — Payment processor Visa Inc. said late Saturday that it plans to begin separately classifying sales at gun stores.

It’s a big win for gun control advocates, who say it will help better track the suspected boom of gun sales that could be a prelude to mass shootings. But gun rights advocates have argued that the move would unfairly separate legal gun sales when most sales do not lead to mass shootings.

Visa said it would adopt the International Organization for Standardization’s new merchant code for gun sales, announced Friday. Until Friday, gunstore sales were considered “general merchandise.”

The adoption of Visa as the largest payment network is significant, and could put pressure on MasterCard and American Express to adopt the code as well.

Gun control advocates have won significant victories on this front in recent weeks. New York City officials and pension funds pressured ISO and banks to adopt the code.

The nation’s two largest public pension funds, in California and New York, are pressuring the nation’s largest credit card firms to establish sales codes specifically for firearms-related sales that may mark suspicious purchases or Can more easily find out how guns and ammo are sold.

Merchant category codes are now available for almost every type of purchase, including purchases made at supermarkets, clothing stores, coffee shops, and many other retailers.

“When you buy airline tickets or pay for your groceries, your credit card company has a special code assigned to those retailers. It’s common knowledge that our stores for gun and ammunition stores have have similar policies,” said New York City Mayor Eric Adams, a former police captain who blames the proliferation of guns for his city’s deadly violence.

The city’s comptroller, Brad Lander, said it made moral and financial sense as a tool for a backlash against gun violence.

“Unfortunately, credit card companies have failed to support this simple, practical, potentially life-saving device. The time has come for them to do so,” Lander said recently ahead of Visa’s announcement.

HOUSTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 09: Smith & Wesson handguns are seen for sale in a gun shop on September 09, 2022 in Houston, Texas.  According to FactSet records, Smith & Wesson Brands Inc.  recorded its lowest quarterly sales since January 2009.  (Photo by Brandon Bell/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TX – SEPTEMBER 09: Smith & Wesson handguns are seen for sale in a gun shop on September 09, 2022 in Houston, Texas. According to FactSet records, Smith & Wesson Brands Inc. recorded its lowest quarterly sales since January 2009. (Photo by Brandon Bell/Getty Images)

Brandon Bell via Getty Images

Landers is a trustee of the New York City Employees Retirement System, Teachers Retirement System and the Board of Education Retirement System — which holds 667,200 shares in American Express valued at approximately $92.49 million; The 1.1 million shares in Mastercard are valued at approximately $347.59 million; And the value of 1.85 million shares in Visa is approximately $363.86 million.

In letters to the companies, the New York Pension Fund, affiliated with the California State Teachers Retirement System, sought support for such a move, saying it is the responsibility of the companies to restrict the use of their networks for illegal activity by public officials.

“Failing to do so could result in regulatory, reputational and litigation risks that could hurt long-term shareholder value,” the letter said.

Over the years, public pension funds have used their extensive investment portfolios to influence public policy and the market place.

The California Teachers Fund, the nation’s second largest pension fund, has long been targeting the gun industry. It has sold its stake to gun manufacturers and tried to persuade some retailers to stop selling guns.

Four years ago the Teachers Fund made guns an important initiative. It called for background checks and asked retailers to “monitor irregularities at the point of sale, record all firearms sales, audit firearms inventory on a regular basis, and proactively assist law enforcement.”

The pension fund argues that creating a merchant category code for standalone firearm and ammunition stores could help in the fight against gun violence.

In letters to credit card companies, a pattern of purchases may flag suspicious activity.

A week before the mass shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, where 49 people were killed in 2016 after a shooter opened fire, the attacker used a credit card to collect more than $26,000 of guns and ammunition, officials said. Ammo was purchased. Stand-alone gun retailer.

Associated Press writer Bobby Calvan in New York contributed to this report.

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