Discover Set To Begin Tracking Gun Purchases

Major American credit card provider Discover Financial Services has announced that it will allow its network to track purchases at gun retailers beginning in April. This move comes after the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) approved launching a dedicated code for gun retailers in September 2022. The code will allow financial institutions to better assist government authorities in investigating crimes involving gun violence in the U.S.

The codes will generate a tag indicating the purchase was made from a firearms retailer, but will not itemize specific goods being bought. Republicans argue the use of the codes could violate the privacy of U.S. citizens lawfully buying guns.

Discover Financial Services handled 2% of the U.S. credit card industry in 2022, valued at over $9.5 trillion. Industry leader Visa had a 61% share of that market, Mastercard 26%, and American Express 11%. Representatives for Discover’s major peers declined to comment on their schedules for introducing the new code. The decision to use the new merchant category code is being left up to individual providers in the industry, according to a representative for ISO.

Last year, Visa, Mastercard, and American Express announced that they would abide by the new rule while claiming they would “respect privacy rights.” According to a representative for Geneva-based ISO, the processing code will be available for financial institutions to use by the end of February. In addition, Discover will include the new code in its next terms of service update to merchants and payment partners in April.

The allegedly legitimate purpose of the code is to indicate when an individual makes one or several large purchases at a gun store, apparently indicating that the person could be someone planning some suspicious activity. However, critics argue that not all expensive purchases at a gun store are weapons. A person buying a gun safe could spend a significant amount of money entirely in line with typical lawful purchases by responsible owners.

Former Visa CEO Al Kelly stated that the new process might mean less than its supporters think but noted that Visa would use the new code. “Guns are allowed in the United States, and we would fully expect that anybody who wants to buy a gun should be able to buy that gun provided all the other checks are done,” he said.

Florida legislators are pushing back, with a measure approved Tuesday by a state Senate committee that could see credit card companies fined up to $10,000 per violation for tracking firearm and ammunition sales. Republican state Sen. Danny Burgess, the bill’s sponsor, argued that the MCC (merchant category code) would lead to the creation of a registry, potentially having a chilling effect on the exercise of fundamental constitutional rights.