Alabama Needs to Get Moving on Second Amendment Privacy Act

AP Photo/Elise Amendola, File

Credit card companies have long had merchant category codes (MCCs) to tell them just what kind of place people's cards are doing business with. For me, this can be handy because my bank uses those categories to help me recognize where I'm spending most of my money.


It can be helpful and I'm sure there are reasons on their end as well.

But when they started talking about using MCCs to identify gun store purchases, a lot of people got nervous. It wasn't that we were worried that some nefarious plan of ours would be discovered or anything. The concerns were many and varied, topped off by the fact that the behavior some think needed to be monitored wasn't even all that unusual.

The uproar caused companies to back least for the time being.

Some states aren't interested in waiting to see if it comes back. They've taken steps to prevent it.

In Alabama, there's a bill under consideration that would basically have the state join that particular club. There's just not a lot of time to make it happen.

The Alabama Legislature will gavel in on Tuesday for the 26th legislative day out of the 30 allowed under the State Constitution. With such limited time, both legislative bodies will attempt to pass priority bills before time runs out.

According to information obtained by 1819 News, the House is planning on tackling two calendars: one exclusively for sunset bills and the other for a mixture of House and Senate bills.

Sunset bills refer to the periodic re-upping of various licensing boards and commissions, requiring the legislature's approval after a given number of years for the board to continue.


House Bill 389 (HB389), by State Rep. Shane Stringer (R-Citronelle), follows the pattern of several states that have passed similar legislation to address the recent implementation of Merchant Category Codes (MCCs) for gun and ammunition purchases.

Gun rights advocates have opposed the use of firearm-specific MCCs since the stated purpose is to collect and report suspicious gun activity and develop algorithms to report it to law enforcement. Data collection on gun owners and their purchases has led many to fear potential discrimination or reprisal by the government for purchasing firearms. Additional concerns exist for the collection of a compulsory de facto gun database that could be used to track or persecute gun owners.

The bill would prohibit financial institutions or payment processors from assigning or requiring a merchant to use a firearms code in a way that distinguishes a firearms retailer physically located in Alabama from general merchandise retailers or sporting goods retailers. It would also prohibit financial institutions from declining to process lawful payments based on the assignment of gun-specific MCCs.

The bill would also prevent any state agency from keeping a record or registry of privately owned firearms their owners, except in the regular course of a criminal investigation and prosecution or as required by state law.


Also up for consideration is a bill banning full-auto switches under state law, which would basically just make it so state and local DAs can prosecute possession of these switches and not have to rely on federal prosecutors. 

But the MCC measure is what's of particular interest.

To be blunt, Alabama needs to pass this, particularly if there's no chance of the federal government passing such a ban, which there's no hope of it doing. A lot of other states need to pass the measure, too.

Ideally, every state would, but too many actually support gun store MCCs, which is an issue. that issue is mitigated, however, if enough states ban their use. 

The question is whether that is needed here and now.

Credit card companies started backing off on gun store tracking almost immediately after the move was announced. People weren't thrilled with the effort and they responded.

Yet they've gone ahead with it in California, where there's no political will to prevent it. In fact, lawmakers there are more likely to encourage it.

As a result, it's really only a matter of time before they start trying to push it again. While Alabama could get away with holding off until next year, at least in theory, at some point they'll either need to pass a ban on this or simply accept that gun sales are going to be tracked to some degree or another.

Since there's a bill now and they have a few days, they might as well step up and get it done.

And in Alabama, that shouldn't be all that difficult.


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