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Maryland's Attorney General sends harsh message to credit card companies rolling back merchant-code for gun sales

Maryland Attorney General Anthony Brown sent a letter to the heads of American Express, Mastercard, VISA, and Discover, accusing them of buckling under the prospect of local legislatures threatening lawsuits. The Attorney General says the companies are backing away from a commitment that can help track the perpetrators of mass shootings.

Mr. Brown writes, "Your companies process millions of transactions in firearms, ammunition, kits, parts, and more. Although the vast majority of these transactions reflect lawful purchases, many are unlawful. Those unlawful sales include the purchase of prohibited firearms such as ghost guns or assault weapons, straw buyers engaged in trafficking, and high-risk purchasers trying to avoid detection in amassing an arsenal that could be used for mass shootings. We are all too painfully familiar with the costs of gun violence."

"In Highland Park, a disturbed young adult with a history of making violent threats purchased an illegal assault weapon in an online transaction. 4 The sale led to a mass shooting at a July 4th parade that resulted in seven lives lost, dozens more injured, and a terrorized community. In Buffalo, a disturbed young adult white supremacist with a similar history of making violent threats purchased an assault weapon from a local retailer, 5 which he then used to murder ten black individuals at Tops Supermarket. In Minnesota, a reckless chain retailer sold firearms to criminal straw purchasers who were going from store-to-store. These firearms were used in multiple shootings later, and most of them remain unrecovered.6 Nationwide, gun violence claimed over 47,000 lives in 2021; preliminary data points to a similar figure for 2022.8 And gun violence does not just take lives. It destroys families and forces entire communities to live in fear. You can help disrupt this violence."

"As we have explained previously deploying this new category code can produce actionable information about criminal purchases. This code will help law enforcement agencies identify individuals who are seeking to evade our state laws by purchasing firearms and ammunition at multiple retailers. We already do this for banks to combat money launderers and pharmacies to identify over-prescribing doctors. We even code basic transactions for everyday items like flowers and groceries and have retailer codes for stamp shops, tent shops, wig shops, car rental places, and various government services. Exempting firearm purchases from such a basic accounting will only make it harder to intercept and disrupt the next mass shooting......"

".....It is clear that your about-face is the result of a handful of state legislative proposals threatening penalties, and amorphous veiled threats from certain state attorneys general, if you code your transaction data as you have pledged to do. First, these threats of incipient legislation and nebulous repercussions should not drive your conduct in this essential area. Second, we do not believe that any state interest could justify a government prohibiting you from coding or analyzing your data that way. In this context, we fear you are setting a precedent that invites further threats and interference in lawful, protected business practices. In short, we see no justifiable reason that you would renege on your pledge to take this basic step towards saving lives. Applying a merchant code is hardly an invitation to violate the Second Amendment..."


The complete letter, complete with citations, may be found here.



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