Drilling Holes in Credit Card Regulation of Gun Purchases

By Larry Keane

Shannon Watts wants to know what’s in your wallet. Even more, she wants what’s in your wallet to decide what you can buy.

Michael Bloomberg’s front woman for his bought-and-paid-for gun control group Moms Demand Action is demanding credit card companies monitor and police cardholder purchases. Specifically, she wants credit card companies to ban purchases of precursor firearm parts. Watts derides them as so-called “ghost guns” and wants to ban their sale.  Her claim is that the ATF recovered 10,000 of these “ghost guns” last year, but those included firearms with obliterated serial numbers and older firearms not legally required to be serialized.

Here’s the problem. It’s perfectly legal for anyone who can buy a gun to build their own at home. She’s stomping her foot and demanding that credit card companies do what tech companies are doing. She wants them to dictate law and to be the arbiters of what’s legal, of what’s allowed, and what rights law-abiding citizens can exercise.

Can I Buy a Law?

Watts proposes in a Business Insider op-ed that credit card companies deny purchases of precursor firearm parts. She points to a lawsuit that her partner gun control organization Everytown for Gun Safety brought against the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to force them to regulate 80 percent unfinished receivers as firearms. She conveniently ignores that the Department of Justice filed a motion to dismiss in a related and coordinated lawsuit filed by Giffords and the California Attorney General. ATF will soon file for summary judgment in the Everytown case.  Among the several reasons the DOJ seeks to dismiss the case is the fact that a receiver blank is not a receiver under the law.

Once a firearm receiver crosses the so-called “80 percent” threshold for being finished, manufacturers are required by the law and ATF regulations to serialize the receiver because, under the law, it is a “firearm.” Everytown’s lawsuit wants to force ATF to define a “frame or receiver” and any part “that is designed, intended, or marketed to be used in an assembled, operable firearm.” Everytown’s definition would mean that a forging or billet, a solid un-machined block of metal with no holes drilled in it, that a manufacturer would purchase from a supplier, would itself be a “firearm” requiring the raw material supplier to have an ATF manufacturing license and mark and serialized the forging or billet with its name, location and a serial number. This, of course, is not what the Gun Control Act requires. As ATF explains in moving to dismiss the Giffords case, “Congress has defined “firearm” with specificity as, inter alia, “(A) any weapon . . . which will or is designed to or may readily be converted to expel a projectile by the action of an explosive,” or “(B) the frame or receiver of any such weapon.” In doing so, Congress changed the prior definition to explicitly exclude “‘any part or parts’ of a firearm,” other than a receiver…. A receiver blank may not “readily be converted to expel a projectile by the action of an explosive,” is not “designed to . . . expel a projectile” in and of itself and is not itself a “receiver.” It is therefore not a “firearm” within the meaning of the statute.”

The ATF explains that a “receiver” is “[t]hat part of a firearm which provides housing for the hammer, bolt or breechblock, and firing mechanism, and which is usually threaded at its forward portion to receive the barrel” and how it determines when something is readily convertible.  A forging and so-called “80 percent receivers” are clearly not readily convertible to fire a projectile and so therefore not a frame or receiver of a firearm.

Scaremongering Bogeyman

Home-built firearms have always been legal. Even before the founding of our nation, Americans were building and assembling firearms in their homes for their private use. This is perfectly legal and is the practice predominantly of hobbyists. The overwhelming majority of firearms in the United States are bought through retail purchases, which are completed with a face-to-face transfer and completed FBI background check through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). This happened 21 million times last year.

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Watts ignores that those who can’t buy a gun at retail also are barred from building and possessing a home-built firearm. If a person is prohibited from buying a firearm at retail, they are also prohibited from possessing a home-built firearm. If a person builds their own firearm at home and sells those firearms to be “in the business” of making and selling a firearm, they must obtain a license from the ATF. Being “in the business” without a license is a felony.

Dirty Deeds

Watts attempts to make the case that there’s a precedent for credit card companies to take active role with the abhorrent comparison of lawful firearm ownership with sex trafficking and pornography. Watts’ ham-fisted attempt to denigrate law-abiding citizens is as crude as her comparison. It shows that there is no brush too wide for her to use to tar the reputation of law-abiding citizens who choose to exercise their Second Amendment rights.

Watts also shows that there’s no idea she’s not willing to co-opt to achieve her gun control agenda. This isn’t the first time the idea of having credit card companies police Americans’ private purchases was floated. New York Times columnist Andrew Ross Sorkin pitched the idea in 2018. He attempted to publicly shame credit card companies for the horrific crimes committed by deranged individuals.

Spokespersons for both Visa and Mastercard rejected this idea then. They would be wise to do it again.

Michael Bloomberg, who writes the check for Watts’ Moms Demand, infamously admitted during a town hall even during his failed presidential bid that he had no problem being protected by guns. After all, he’s rich. But Bloomberg has never had an issue with telling others how to live their lives. Now, he’s got Watts selling his bad ideas of getting credit card companies to climb on board with his big brother gambit.

Watts might be playing from an outdated playbook, though. This year is different. More than 8.4 million people who never owned a gun before 2020 now have one in their possession. The likelihood of those people buying guns that cost hundreds to thousands of dollars in wads of cash is unlikely. They bought them with a credit card.

Guns are just today’s cause du jour. After big tech colluded to silence dissent online, it’s not a stretch to see when those bankrolling these cancel culture campaigns move on from gun control and deny the ability to buy a fossil-fuel-powered car or purchase red meat or any other grievance they become offended by. It took a judge to stop Bloomberg’s Big Gulp ban in New York City.

Larry Keane is Senior Vice President of Government and Public Affairs and General Counsel for the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the firearms industry trade association.

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{ 13 comments… add one }
  • Jack Frank January 15, 2021, 9:42 am

    Stop messing with people’s rights, the deceit honest people of America are not the problem. Criminals and illegal immigrants have more rights than honest people and they are the ones turning America into a shithole. I don’t know why the liberal agenda wants too take our rights away, leave the good people be and stop ruining our lives.

  • Travis J January 15, 2021, 8:19 am

    She is a very unhappy woman. She should try a hobby

    • Jay Smith January 15, 2021, 9:35 am

      Or a hot bath and battery operated “relief” .

      • Dav January 15, 2021, 10:51 am

        I was thinking she should pick up shooting as a hobby. It’s quite versatile. You can practice on paper targets and unwind. You can go and compete with other hobbyists to see who are better at certain types of activities. You can learn to hunt with it in order to provide sustenance for your family when the economy collapses. You can defend yourself against murderers and rapists. You can defend yourself from an unlawful government that attempts to abridge your natural rights.

    • Mark A Yonko Sr March 19, 2021, 9:21 am

      Yea, a hobby like an AR15 build!

  • G wallace January 15, 2021, 8:01 am

    This is why cash will always rule.

    • Big Al 45 January 15, 2021, 12:10 pm

      An invalid comment, and one that takes a huge leap from reality, not dealing with the camel’s nose under the tent.
      MOST of these purchases are online, so Credit is an absolute must.
      In addition. where does this stop?
      Once the powers that be have this, they can use it in other areas, sticking their nose in ALL your purchases.
      Which is ipso facto, ‘controlling’ you by controlling your buying habits.
      This is a VERY troubling idea, and Watts is just stupid enough to NOT see how Fascist this could become.

  • shawn lindsey January 15, 2021, 7:16 am

    The last time they called for stricter laws and or banning firearms it totally backfired on them . Every state either loosened up or deleted their gun restriction except for full auto. I am a lifetime member of the NRA and a retired Veteran. The right to bear arms is guaranteed in the Constitution. Unless the government amends that, and it’s been tried and failed, you are out of luck. If you don’t want one don’t get one. no one is twisting your arm. And no one gave you the right to tell other people what they can and can not have.

  • Stephen K. Ames January 15, 2021, 6:47 am

    Shall not be infringed. The above is an infringement. People need to learn the definition of the word infringe. No part of government and no court can lawfully infringe on the Second Amendment Right to bear arms.
    A Right cannot be lawfully licensed or taxed. People need to quit arguing about bits and parts etc. and get to the meat of the problem………. Shall not be infringed.
    Meanwhile our gun groups sit and negotiate away a little bit of our Rights here and another little bit there.
    These people in government are sworn to support, obey, and defend the Constitution …… as it is written. Any action to change, alter, suspend or do away with any part of the Constituion makes them a Liar and an Oath Breaker…… guilty of malfeasance. Removing a couple of them from office for oath breaking might just solve the problem.

    • Dav January 15, 2021, 10:54 am

      The way it is worded and the way that courts enforce later amendments, “shall not be infringed” should apply to every single person, organization and corporation, not just governments. This article is not about the government doing things, it is about “private citizens” attempting to influence others to infringe on the 2nd amendment.

  • Mark N. January 13, 2021, 1:14 am

    Never let a crisis go to waste. Since Big Tech feels it has the right to censor what we say and what we read, because it is not a governmental entity, she feels that the banks (who did cave under pressure from the Obama Administration to ban firearms companies and sellers) can violate people’s second amendment rights with impunity because they are not governmental entities either. Who needs Congress when Big Business will do your dirty work for you?

    • michael January 15, 2021, 7:35 am

      Are big tech a private entity when they used taxpayers money ? I don’t see where any of them have a right to ban anyone when they received Govt. subsidies. Either return the subsidies with interest. Or quit deciding who gets to say what.

      • Zupglick January 15, 2021, 4:31 pm

        You mean like AWS’s contracts with the Government?

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