Sunday, March 26, 2023

Visa to start categorizing gun shop sales separately

NEW YORK — Payment processor Visa Inc. mentioned late Saturday that it plans to begin individually categorizing gross sales at gun outlets.

It’s a serious win for gun management advocates who say it can assist higher observe suspicious surges of gun gross sales that could possibly be a prelude to a mass capturing. But gun rights advocates have argued that step would unfairly segregate authorized gun gross sales when most gross sales don’t result in mass shootings.

Visa mentioned it might undertake the International Organization for Standardization’s new service provider code for gun gross sales, which was introduced on Friday. Until Friday, gun retailer gross sales have been thought-about “general merchandise.”

“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,” the cost processor mentioned in a press release.

Visa’s adoption is important as the biggest cost community, and can probably add stress for Mastercard and American Express to undertake the code as nicely.

Gun management advocates had gotten important wins on this entrance in latest weeks. New York City officers and pension funds had pressured the ISO and banks to undertake this code.

Two of the nation’s largest public pension funds, in California and New York, are urgent the nation’s largest bank card corporations to determine gross sales codes particularly for firearm-related gross sales that would flag suspicious purchases or extra simply hint how weapons and ammo are offered.

Merchant Category Codes now exist for nearly each sort of buy, together with these made at supermarkets, outfitters, espresso outlets and lots of different retailers.

“When you buy an airline ticket or pay for your groceries, your credit card company has a special code for those retailers. It’s just common sense that we have the same policies in place for gun and ammunition stores,” mentioned New York City Mayor Eric Adams, a former police captain who blames the proliferation of weapons for his metropolis’s lethal violence.

The metropolis’s comptroller, Brad Lander, mentioned it made ethical and monetary sense as a instrument to push again towards gun violence.

“Unfortunately, the credit card companies have failed to support this simple, practical, potentially lifesaving tool. The time has come for them to do so,” Lander said recently, before Visa’s announcement.

Landers is a trustee of the New York City Employees’ Retirement System, Teachers’ Retirement System and Board of Education Retirement System — which together own 667,200 shares in American Express valued at approximately $92.49 million; 1.1 million shares in MasterCard valued at approximately $347.59 million; and 1.85 million shares in Visa valued at approximately $363.86 million.

In letters to the companies, the New York pensions funds, joined by the California State Teachers’ Retirement System, sought support for such a move, saying the companies have a responsibility to prohibit the use of their networks for what public officials deemed illegal activity.

“Failing to do so can result in regulatory, reputational, and litigation risks that may harm long-term shareholder value,” the letters asserted.

Over the years, public pension funds have used their extensive investment portfolios to influence public policy and the market place.

The California teacher’s fund, the second largest pension fund in the country, has long taken aim on the gun industry. It has divested its holdings from gun manufacturers and has sought to persuade some retailers from selling guns.

Four years ago, the teacher’s fund made guns a key initiative. It called for background checks and called on retailers “monitor irregularities at the point of sale, to record all firearm sales, to audit firearms inventory on a regular basis, and to proactively assist law enforcement.”

The pension funds argue that creating a merchant category code for standalone firearm and ammunition stores could aid in the battle against gun violence.

In letters to the credit card companies, a pattern of purchases could flag suspicious activity.

Officials said that a week before the mass shooting at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida, where 49 people died after a shooter opened fire in 2016, the assailant used credit cards to purchase more than $26,000 worth of guns and ammunition, including purchases at a stand-alone gun retailer.


Associated Press author Bobby Calvan in New York contributed to this report.

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