GOP attorneys general are urging Visa, Mastercard and American Express to drop a new merchant category code for purchases at gun stores. File photo by Brian Kersey/UPI. | License Photo
Sept. 21 (UPI) -- Two dozen Republican attorneys general are demanding Visa, Mastercard and American Express drop plans to categorize purchases at gun stores separately.
The attorneys general sent a letter to the three credit card companies Tuesday saying the new merchant category code violates consumers' constitutional right to privacy.
"The new code will not protect public safety," the letter said. "Categorizing the constitutionally protected right to purchase firearms unfairly singles out law-abiding merchants and consumers alike."
Earlier this month, Visa announced it would join Mastercard and American Express in implementing the new code for firearms purchases after the International Organization for Standardization approved the new merchant category for gun and ammunition stores.
The code, which is a four-digit number that credit card companies use to classify businesses, would apply to all purchases at gun and ammunition stores, but would not apply to similar purchases at other retailers.
"Generating a 'list of gun buyers' creates the obvious risk that law-abiding consumers' information will be leaked, discovered, hacked or otherwise obtained and misused by those who oppose Americans exercising their Second Amendment rights," said the letter signed first by Tennessee Attorney General Jonathan Skrmetti and Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen.
Other attorneys general to sign the letter are from Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Wyoming and West Virginia.
The attorneys general warned the credit card companies will face legal action if they fail to protect consumers.
"We are further concerned that financial institutions that place their desired public policy outcomes ahead of the well-being of their investors do so in derogation of their fiduciary obligations," the letter said. "Be advised that we will marshal the full scope of our lawful authority to protect our citizens and consumers from unlawful attempts to undermine their constitutional rights."
Visa, Mastercard and American Express have not responded to the letter, but American Express recently said it is "focused on ensuring we have the right controls in place to meet our regulatory and fiduciary responsibilities, as well as prevent illegal activity on our network."
The ISO's decision comes after lobbying from Amalgamated Bank, New York city and state officials and the California teachers' pension fund.
"When it comes to guns falling in the wrong hands, we must find upstream solutions before we're faced with downstream consequences - because downstream consequences are lost lives," New York City Mayor Eric Adams said at a press conference last month as he urged the credit card companies to adopt the new code.
On Saturday, a dozen Senate Republicans sent their own letter to Visa, MasterCard and American Express accusing the companies of "bowing to international and activist pressure" and making changes for "much more nefarious reasons," that could lead to "declining to process gun sales altogether in the near future."
Tuesday's letter, which copies President Joe Biden, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy, as well as a number of bank executives, insists politics must be kept out of the marketplace.
"Social policy should be debated and determined within our political institutions. Americans are tired of seeing corporate leverage used to advance political goals that cannot muster basic democratic support," the letter said.
"The Second Amendment is a fundamental right, but it's also a fundamental American value. Our financial institutions should stop lending their market power to those who wish to attack that value."