A U.S. Congresswoman from Virginia is proposing a bill that would direct the federal government to identify the best way to track gun purchases using information obtained from credit card companies.
Rep. Jennifer Wexton claims her Gun Violence Prevention Through Financial Intelligence Act will allow federal agents and financial institutions to flag suspicious activity that indicates impending domestic terrorist attacks.
“Banks, credit card companies, and retailers have unique insight into the behavior and purchasing patterns that can help identify and prevent mass shootings,” she said in a press release. “We know that financial intelligence can be an effective tool to combat gun violence in the same way it is for money laundering, human smuggling, and fentanyl trafficking. The red flags are there–someone just needs to be paying attention.”
The bill compels a branch of the Treasury Department called the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) to obtain retail-level purchase information from credit card companies to figure out the best way to identify purchasers who might be planning an attack.
If FinCEN can collect enough data on gun purchases, the agency will issue an “advisory” informing financial institutions about the best ways to monitor and report those purchases. If FinCEN determines that the data collected is insufficient, they must submit a report to Congress detailing the process and identifying barriers to data collection.
Second Amendment Foundation Founder Alan Gottlieb called the bill “disgusting” in an email to GunsAmerica.
“Allowing government to track private financial spending on our credit cards is the worst kind of invasion of privacy that I have ever seen proposed by an elected official,” he said. “She should be removed from office not only for violating our Second Amendment rights but for violating a host of our other rights and freedoms as well.”
Supporters of the legislation believe Wexton’s bill can cross the divide between pro- and anti-gun camps.
“It seems like moderate middle ground that privacy and Second Amendment advocates should be able to meet in the middle on,” Joseph Moreno, a financial services lawyer, told the Richmond Times-Dispatch. “We’re not talking about banning any kind of purchases or a federal registry.”
But the bill fails to describe what kinds of patterns companies and agencies might look for or how to differentiate gun enthusiasts—who often purchase multiple firearms and thousands of rounds of ammunition in a short period of time—from legitimate terrorist threats.
It also doesn’t acknowledge the difficulty inherent in tracking gun and gun accessory purchases across thousands of companies and retailers nationwide. Accessories like body armor, night-vision goggles, optics, and powerful flashlights might be used for nefarious purposes, but they are also used by thousands of law-abiding gun owners.
The legislation is supported by Everytown for Gun Safety and co-sponsored by Democratic Reps. Don Beyer (Va.), Tony Cárdenas (Calif.), Sean Casten (Ill.), Gerry Connolly (Va.), Henry Cuellar (Texas), Madeleine Dean (Pa.) and Alcee Hastings (Fla.), and by Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.).