Gillibrand demands more action from Biden administration on merchant credit codes for gun stores

Gillibrand demands more action from Biden administration on merchant credit codes for gun stores
AP Photo/Patrick Semansky

The establishment of a new merchant category code for firearm retailers poses all kinds of challenges for both retailers and credit card companies (not to mention privacy concerns for gun buyers). One of the biggest issues; the requirement that credit card companies and financial institutions report all “suspicious” transactions that could involve money laundering, human trafficking, terrorist financing, and other criminal activity to the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network.

With the new merchant category code for firearm retailers, gun control activists and anti-gun politicians want to now expand that reporting requirement to the millions of transactions that take place at FFLs across the country every month. How exactly does a financial institution determine whether a particular transaction is suspicious, particularly when the new merchant credit code for gun stores doesn’t detail what exactly is purchased, only the dollar amount and the location? Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and the head of the anti-gun bank that helped to spearhead the effort to establish the new MCCs were awfully short on specifics when they held a news conference on the matter on Sunday, but the bottom line is that they believe the Biden administration could be doing much more to scrutinize retail sales at gun shops.

Believing that lives are on the line, Gillibrand joined President and Chief Executive Officer of Amalgamated Bank Priscilla Sims Brown and Five Mualimm-ak Director of Programs at Life Camp Incorporated in Foley Square on Dec. 4 to call upon the Treasury and the DOJ to publish an advisory and establish a policy framework to help in the implementation of the new MCCs.

Gillibrand is requesting a set of guidelines for financial institutions, law enforcement and retailors to utilize in reporting suspicious firearm purchases that could lead to gun trafficking.

“It’s been nearly impossible for banks to determine whether a large, unusual charge on your credit card is for a set of golf clubs or for a gun. That’s simply outrageous and revising the merchant category code assigned to gun stores will give banks the ability to track and identify these purchases,” Gillibrand said. “Now that we have these important steps in progress. I’m writing to the Department of Treasury and the Department of Justice requesting that they facilitate the immediate calling for publication of advisory that lays out how to report suspicious activity related to firearm purchases and its role in gun violence.”

Banks still can’t determine whether or not a purchase was a golf club or a gun based on the new MCCs. They could determine that a purchase was a made at a sporting goods store as opposed to a federally licensed firearms retailer, but they can’t drill down and see what, exactly, was purchased. That in turn makes it impossible for the new MCCs to have the effect Gillibrand and other supporters claim it will.

Gillibrand declared that the codes will not be used to judge firearm enthusiasts, hunters, and or collectors but instead those who make random and unusually large purchases with credit cards.

According to Gillibrand, several high-profile rampage shooters made large bulk purchases of guns and ammo before they partook in their lethal acts, including 64-year-old Stephen Paddock who, in 2017, killed 60 people in a Las Vegas massacre, using credit cards to pay $170,000 for his arsenal in the months leading up to the incident.

Now, you know that whatever the reporting requirement ends up being, it’s gonna be a lot lower than $170,000. So what amount should be considered “suspicious” when it comes to identifying a potential mass shooting suspect? After all, all they really need is a firearm and a couple of hundred rounds of ammunition; something that’s a very common transaction at gun shops across the land.

It sounds like Gillibrand and her buddies don’t have any specifics to provide. Instead, they want to leave it up to DOJ and Treasure to come up with the standards for “suspicious” transactions; standards that simply don’t exist. In fact, several of Gillibrand’s fellow Democrats in Congress sponsored a bill just last year that would have required FinCEN to “collect and analyze data from financial institutions to determine what indicators, if any, might precede a mass shooting or terrorist attack” and then “issue an advisory on how financial institutions should use these indicators to comply with their SAR filings.”

That bill has gone nowhere, and neither DOJ or Treasury has any real standard at all to issue as “guidance” for financial institutions. That doesn’t matter to Gillibrand or the anti-gun activists backing her call, of course. Frankly, I don’t think they’d be concerned in the slightest if the Biden administration came through with standards that were so broad that scores of law-abiding citizens were flagged for their “suspicious” purchases and law enforcement ended up wasting countless hours and taxpayer dollars running down non-existent threats to public safety. If the end goal is to chill the lawful commerce of arms, then the more purchases flagged as “suspicious” the better, and despite Gillibrand’s claims that law-abiding citizens have nothing to worry about when it comes to these reporting standards, the skepticism and doubt on the part of many gun owners is well-founded.