“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 company said in an emailed statement Saturday.
Meanwhile, Mastercard said in a statement it will focus on how the new system 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.”
Two of the country’s largest public pension funds, in California and New York, have been pressing the country’s largest credit card firms to establish sales codes specifically for firearm-related sales that could flag suspicious purchases or more easily trace how guns and ammo are sold.
Merchant Category Codes now exist for almost every kind of purchase, including those made at supermarkets, clothing stores, coffee shops and many other 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,” said New York City Mayor Eric Adams, a former police captain who blames the proliferation of guns for his city’s deadly violence.
The city’s comptroller, Brad Lander, said it made moral and financial sense as a tool to push back against 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.
The pension funds and gun control advocates argue that creating a merchant category code for standalone firearm and ammunition stores could aid in the battle against gun violence.
A week before the mass shooting at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Fla., 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.
Lander 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.
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.