Moms Demand Action founder Shannon Watts said in an op-ed this week that credit card companies like Visa and Mastercard should begin prohibiting the sale of “ghost gun” kits and “core components.”
“With federal regulators falling well short of their obligations to the public, credit card companies have an opportunity — and a responsibility — to be part of the solution by refusing to process these dangerous and illegal sales,” Watts said in Business Insider.
“By refusing to process payments for illegal ghost gun kit sales, credit card companies can stand on the right side of history — and show Americans they are willing to put their money where their values are,” Watts concluded.
The anti-gun lobby has in the past successfully pressured financial institutions to prohibit certain types of firearm sales. But the willingness of private companies like Facebook, Twitter, Apple, and Google, to bend to recent social pressure could spell trouble for firearm companies and gun owners alike.
Watts argues that “ghost guns”—or non-serialized, build-it-yourself firearms—are the “fastest-growing gun safety threat in the United States.”
She cites the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF), which estimated that 10,000 non-serialized guns were seized by law enforcement agents in 2019. But she fails to mention that in that year, law enforcement agents seized at least 269,000 firearms, according to the same ATF data.
Watts also makes much of the ATF’s recent statement that certain build-it-yourself firearm kits are, in fact, firearms. The agency said as much to justify a raid of popular build-it-yourself firearm company Polymer80. But Watts also fails to mention that the ATF has for years assured gun owners that 80-percent receives are not firearms and therefore not subject to background check requirements.
Watts calls on credit card companies to do what the ATF won’t: ban build-it-yourself firearms.
“The ATF raid was an important step, but the agency has far more to do,” she said. “Until it asserts full regulatory authority over this dangerous and illegal end-run around our gun safety laws, we need to fight the problem on every front, and that means declining to process payments for illegal and dangerous ghost gun kits.”
There is precedent for Watts’ wishes. At the behest of groups like Moms Demand Action, Citigroup and other banks refused to do business with any retail outlet that sold certain (legal) firearms to certain (legal) age groups. Gun companies were forced to find other lenders and conduct transactions through other systems.
But if Watts gets her way this time, gun owners will also be affected. A crackdown from credit card companies on “ghost gun” parts could also prohibit consumers from using their credit cards to purchase all the parts used to build a firearm.
At the end of the op-ed, Watts calls on credit card companies to ban the sale of “ghost gun” kits “and their core components.” Watts does not elaborate on which components she considers “core,” but it’s likely she means receivers and barrels and perhaps triggers.
Visa, Mastercard, and other credit card companies have thus far not indicated whether they plan to follow Watts’ plan.