On Saturday, credit card company Visa Inc. announced its plans to begin keeping track of sales at gun shops separately from all other purchases, in a move widely seen as a crackdown on Second Amendment rights and increased surveillance on private citizens by a major corporation.
According to NPR, Visa is following the recommendation of the International Organization for Standardization (IOS), which first issued its own guidelines updating the merchant code for gun purchases. Other credit card companies, including MasterCard and American Express, have also announced their intentions to follow this new guidance.
Visa said in its statement announcing the new policy that “following IOS’s decision to establish a new merchant category code, Visa will proceed with next steps, while ensuring we protect all legal commerce on the Visa network in accordance with our long-standing rules.” Prior to the new policy, Visa had considered gun sales to be part of “general merchandise.”
As Visa is the largest payment processor in the world, the decision now by three major credit card companies to enact this policy is expected to influence many banks to adopt the policy as well, since the banks will still be responsible for issuing most cards. As such, some banks may determine that they will no longer allow for firearms to be purchased using credit cards that they had issued.
Although advocates claim that the sweeping new categorization could lead to the prevention of mass shootings by flagging suspicious firearms purchases, Second Amendment advocates argue that the new policy will only result in unfair targeting of the gun industry, while doing little to prevent gun violence. Critics have also pointed out that, since the new rules will only track purchases at gun stores rather than the purchasing of specific items, it could result in non-firearm purchases, such as a gun safe, being categorized nevertheless as the purchase of a gun.
“The (industry’s) decision to create a firearm specific code is nothing more than a capitulation to anti-gun politicians and activists bent on eroding the rights of law-abiding Americans one transaction at a time,” said Lars Dalseide, a spokesman for the National Rifle Association (NRA).