Dems Urge DOJ and Treasury to Push Financial Institutions to Flag Gun Purchases 

Credit cards splayed out.
(Photo: NSSF)

Democrats in Washington, D.C. are urging the U.S. Department of the Treasury and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to pave the way for financial institutions to adopt a new merchant category (MCC) code so that they can monitor and flag firearm and ammunition purchases.

The International Organization for Standardization (ISO) approved the MCC code last year. Major credit card companies — including Visa, Mastercard, and American Express — were on pace to implement the new code until Republicans stepped in to stop them.

Now, U.S. Senators Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) are hoping to get the rollout back on track with the assistance of the DOJ and Dept. of Treasury.

Sens. Menendez and Warren sent the following letter addressed to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and Attorney General Merrick Garland this week:

“MCCs are four-digit numbers that identify the type of business processing a financial transaction – such as grocery stores, department stores, and hardware stores,” wrote the senators in the letter dated March 15, 2023.

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“Previously, gun and ammunition stores were categorized as sporting goods stores or miscellaneous general merchandise stores,” they continued. “We strongly support the new MCC code for gun and ammunition stores…We believe the new MCC code has the potential to help reduce gun violence and save lives.”

If financial institutions begin using the new code, they will report any “suspicious activity” to the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN). What qualifies as “suspicious activity” is not quite clear.

We urge Treasury and DOJ to quickly publish any policy advisory, enforcement guidance, and other materials needed by financial institutions, retailers, and law enforcement as the new MCC code is implemented for gun and ammunition stores,” added the senators in their letter.

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“We also ask Treasury, with input from the DOJ, to issue guidance to financial institutions regarding circumstances that should prompt financial firms to file a suspicious activity report about transactions they suspect are related to trafficking in firearms, money laundering proceeds from trafficking in firearms, or other criminal activity,” they continued.

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Along with Sens. Warran and Menendez, Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), and Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) also endorsed the letter.

A 2016 Prison survey conducted by the DOJ found that the majority of criminals do not obtain their firearms through legal channels. Only about 10 percent, for example, purchased guns at retail locations.

Instead, the survey results showed criminals resort to theft, the black market, straw purchasers, borrowing from other criminals, stealing from crime scenes, etc. to arm themselves.

This raises questions about who this tracking system is really targeting. Because even with the MCC code in place, the 10 percent of criminals who buy guns from FFLs could easily circumvent the system by using cash.

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It’s worth pausing for a moment to ask, how many criminals actually have good credit in the first place that Visa or Amex would issue them a card? How many criminals have credit cards?

What’s more, suppose for sake of argument all 10 percent actually had good credit and used their respective CCs. There is no guarantee whatsoever that their purchases would qualify as “suspicious activity” and warrant a notification to FinCEN. None.

So, in truth, what this MCC code is designed to do is track the everyday sale of small arms to law-abiding citizens in good financial standing. Because, it could be argued that, what those in power really want to know is who among us shoots and trains and buys guns and ammo frequently. The “bulk” buyers and “stockpilers” is probably who they’re after, who they want to flag and monitor.

The question is why do they want access to this information? Maybe it’s because they view active and enthusiastic 2A practitioners as “domestic extremists” or “armed extremists.” Maybe it’s because they think we’re the enemy.

Your thoughts?

Update: We reached out to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the firearms industry trade association, for comment. Here’s what Mark Oliva, NSSF’s managing director of public affairs told us via email:

Senators Menendez and Warren aren’t looking out for anyone but their gun control special interests by demanding the federal government use its authority to force credit card companies to use a voluntary code that was approved by an international organization. These senators know that the only reason they, and others, pursued this code was that it would have allowed them to circumvent federal law and create a back-door firearm registry, and put law-abiding Americans on government watch lists simply for exercising their fundamental Constitutional rights. This plan is beyond Orwellian and the senators’ demands reveal they have no respect for the Constitution, rights to privacy or the free exercise of commerce in America.

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About the author: S.H. Blannelberry is the News Editor of GunsAmerica.

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  • ls March 17, 2023, 7:33 pm

    In addition to gun/ammo/optics/rails/eye & ear protection/armor/etc/etc credit card buyers, the sellers would be subject to the same unconstitutional scrutiny (in violation of at least Amendments 1,2,4).

  • Brian March 17, 2023, 2:17 pm

    It is NONE of these communist’s GD business what I spend my money on or where I spend it. I WILL NOT BE CONTROLED by GD worthless politicians I did not vote for who do not represent me whatsoever!

  • Brezinaki March 17, 2023, 8:49 am

    No, Commie, No!
    Elizabeth Warren is a poster child for TERM LIMITS

  • paul I'll call you what I want/1st Amendment March 16, 2023, 8:14 am

    How about a category for drugs???? Oh thats right that would be prevented by hippa, well then since they want to classify gun violence as an epidemic then hippa should be enough to stop this!

    • DallasH March 18, 2023, 2:30 am

      Go to your bank, ask for a withdrawal against your card, and go pay cash. The CC company sees a withdrawal from a bank, and they never see the MCC code for a gun shop purchase. If they call and ask what you bought (I dont know if they do that or not) tell them it was a very expensive sex toy, or electronic gadget, or you went to the horse track. Or tell them you think theyre a spammer and hang up on them.

  • Mark N. March 16, 2023, 1:11 am

    If you buy a gun with a credit card, you are necessarily at a gun store/ffl, because gang bangers and street vendors don’t take plastic. And since you are buying from an FFL, you necessarily filed out a 4473 and passed a background check. Therefore, the ONLY persons who could be flagged by this code are presumptively law-abiding gun owners. Second, what on earth is “suspicious activity”? Do these Senators really think that the card companies will try to figure this out on a case by case basis? I have a hard time believing that they would do so, but instead that they would report EVERY transaction to the feds, thus creating a “registry” of gun buyers that the feds CANNOT create from 4473 forms. I assume that these Senators think that they are cleverly circumventing the federal law prohibition because it is not a governmental entity that is storing and reporting the data, but a private party doing the governments anti-gun dirty work for it.

    • Analog Man March 17, 2023, 9:39 am

      Precisely. That list of senators are effectively operatives of various lobbying bodies; anti-2A in particular. As such, they create schemes to facilitate agendas of their overlords. The text of letter spills it, “Previously, gun and ammunition stores were categorized as sporting goods stores or miscellaneous general merchandise stores,” they continued. “We strongly support the new MCC code for gun and ammunition stores…We believe the new MCC code has the potential to help reduce gun violence and save lives.”
      Is it just me, or are they so bad at linguistics “Previously” now means same thing as Currently? So worked up, the frenzy has them thinking past tense, or there’s been a gap in monitoring? Any logical and unbound person should see through it, pointed out above goal is to reap what 4473 doesn’t record. It’s proven they have no restraint enlisting the media do their bidding, hire ballot mules, retain instigators, generate psych-ops, no challenge getting private companies should enact what they cannot, under guise of public safety.
      Tell us, who feels safer than 70, 40, 20, or 5 years ago?

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