Visa and Mastercard ‘pause’ decision to categorize gun-store purchases after significant pressure from state-level Republicans

Two of the largest credit-card companies in the world have announced that they have paused a plan to create a separate category for all electronic purchases made at gun shops, and they have cited pressure from Republican state politicians as a major reason for their change of heart.

Visa and Mastercard claimed they had intended to create a separate merchant category code for gun-store purchases in order to comply with a recent MCC established by the International Organization for Standardization, which develops standards for many technical fields and products. The ISO, based in Geneva, created the gun-shop MCC back in September after pressure from global gun-control lobbyists, and Visa and Mastercard insisted that they were just following suit.

However, 24 GOP state attorneys general banded together and wrote a letter to the two companies, threatening legal action against them for violating the Second Amendment rights of ordinary Americans and perhaps even violating consumer protection and anti-trust laws. Several Republican-controlled state legislatures also began introducing legislation which would have prohibited the use of the new code.

The companies got the message and issued statements to announce that they would not implement the new code — at least for now.

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“Today, there are bills advancing in several states related to the use of this new code,” Mastercard said in a statement. “If passed, the result will be an inconsistency in how this ISO standard could be applied by merchants, issuers, acquirers and networks. It’s for that reason that we have decided to pause work on the implementation of the firearms-specific MCC.”

Visa’s statement was more succinct but conveyed a similar message: “There is now significant confusion and legal uncertainty in the payments ecosystem, and the state actions disrupt the intent of global standards.”

Gun-control advocates had hoped that the separate code for gun-shop purchases might forestall another mass shooting. However, conservatives argued that it would have interfered with the ability to purchase firearms and firearm-related products and perhaps even made lawful purchases appear suspicious.

Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen, one of the 24 AGs who signed the letter to Visa and Mastercard, said the companies made the right call.

“Visa and Mastercard came to the correct conclusion,” Knudsen said.

While some outlets, including CBSNews and CNN have billed the “pause” as a victory for conservatives, it did not so much fortify Second Amendment rights as prevent further erosion of them. Knudsen even hinted that the “pause” leaves the door open for the code to return, stating, “[T]hey shouldn’t just ‘pause’ their implementation of this plan—they should end it definitively.”

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