Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is among a group of state attorneys general fighting back against the latest attempt to suppress the Second Amendment rights of citizens.
On September 9, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) approved a Merchant Category Code (MCC) for firearm retailers. This change in the MCC asks major credit and debit card issuers to track purchases of firearms and flag any that appear to be “suspicious.”
The ISO claims that this move was made to target “gun violence.” Opponents say the move impedes on individual privacy and could lead to a blacklist of gun owners.
“It should be assumed that the goal of this program is to share all collected firearm retailer MCC data with government authorities and potentially private third parties that may include gun control organizations and anti-gun researchers,” said the National Rifle Association.
Major card issuers such as Visa, Mastercard, and American Express have already acted to enforce this code.
Recently, Paxton joined more than 20 other attorneys general in composing a letter to the CEOs of these three major companies. The letter was led by the AGs from Tennessee and Montana.
The AGs contend that the new code will not promote the protection of public safety and infringes on the constitutional right to purchase firearms.
“The potential damage to Americans’ constitutional rights includes hacking this confidential information and misusing the data to punish law-abiding gun owners merely for exercising their 2nd Amendment rights,” Paxton explained.
The code would allow card-issuing companies to track the consumer data as they purchase firearms from “gun stores” only. The MCC only targets certain merchants and consumers since the data recorded would only show the storefront, not the items purchased.
Amalgamated Bank was one of the primary benefactors for the MCC, pressuring them to further develop the code that would prevent easy sales of firearms. Amalgamated Bank has taken a far-left political stance on gun control and promoted the original petition for the new MCC.
“Activists (specifically Amalgamated Bank) pressured the ISO to adopt this policy as a means of circumventing and undermining the American legislative process,” the AGs stated in their letter. “The new Merchant Category Code will chill the exercise of a constitutional right without any concomitant benefit.”
Amalgamated Bank has begun developing a software that would identify suspicious activity so as to further enforce the MCC. Alongside the ISO, they recommend other banks and card issuers do the same.
The information recorded and flagged by banks could essentially be used to create a blacklist of gun owners for the government and third parties. This would single out gun owners, making them a target of anti-gun activists.
“More importantly, purposefully tracking this information can only result in its misuse, either unintentional or deliberate. Creating and tracking this data only matters if your institutions are considering using that information to take further, harmful action—like infringing upon consumer privacy,” argued the AGs.
“And 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.”
Visa and Mastercard previously mentioned they would prefer to stay out of the required enforcement of the new MCC, arguing that it would cause negative responses from pro-Second Amendment politicians. However, following the creation of the MCC, Visa and Mastercard agreed to follow its guidelines.
“Following ISO’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,” Visa said.
Mastercard said, “We now turn our focus to how it (the code) will be implemented by merchants and their banks as we continue to support lawful purchases on our network while protecting the privacy and decisions of individual cardholders.”
Missouri Sena.Josh Hawley pointed out in his letter to the same three CEOs that “Visa, MasterCard, American Express, and other payment card companies should not distinguish lawful firearm-related purchases from other retail purchases.”
“Too often, companies have abused their market power to target the constitutional rights of conservatives and others with minority viewpoints. The Second Amendment is clear: the right of the people to keep and bear arms is guaranteed to law-abiding citizens and ‘shall not be infringed.’”
Paxton and the other AGs echoed this sentiment in their letter: “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.”
The AGs explained that if the banks choose to enforce this, it would be an illegal infringement of citizens’ constitutional rights.
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. Please keep that in mind as you consider whether to proceed with adopting and implementing this Merchant Category Code.
As our respective States’ chief legal officers, we are tasked with protecting the constitutional rights of our citizens, defending our consumers from privacy intrusions and other abuses, and enforcing antitrust laws.
The three CEOs have yet to release a response statement to the letter, but Attorney General Ken Paxton and many more have promised to protect their citizens from this latest attack on the Second Amendment.