States Say No to Backdoor Firearms Registration

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posted on June 6, 2023
montana.jpg
Photo credit: Royal Broil, Creative Commons.

The movement by some Second Amendment-supporting state legislatures to protect the financial privacy of those making purchases with credit cards at firearms retailers continues to gain momentum.

In late April, Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte (R) signed such legislation. The Montana 2nd Amendment Financial Privacy Act, S.B. 359, prohibits the use of a special Merchant Category Code (MCC) for credit-card purchases and prevents personal financial information from being shared by financial institutions.

“Activist, woke capitalism through ESG investing is trending on Wall Street,” said Gianforte upon signing the measure into law. “It won’t fly in Montana, and neither will efforts by woke banks to discriminate against gun manufacturers.

“Our right to keep and bear arms is part of our state and nation’s rich heritage. Law-abiding gun owners should not be targeted by financial institutions, like the big banks who adhere to ESG principles, just for exercising their Second Amendment rights.”

A similar measure in Texas, H.B. 2837, has been passed by the state legislature and was recently sent to Gov. Greg Abbott (R) for his consideration. That measure protects the privacy rights of lawful purchasers of firearms or ammunition by prohibiting the misuse of payment card processing systems to surveil, report, or disclose these legal transactions.​ Gov. Abbott is expected to sign the bill.

At issue is the fact that, in late 2022, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) announced it would create a unique MCC at the behest of Amalgamated Bank, which has been described as the “Left’s Private Banker.” That MCC would allow credit-card companies to monitor transactions at firearm retailers.

Several provisions in federal law—most notably a key part of the Firearm Owners Protection Act of 1986—prohibit the federal government from centralizing most firearm records into a registry. The new MCC could provide a way for the government to outsource the creation of a registry that the government itself is prohibited from creating. If banks and payment processors share their records with the government, that would be a major step toward the registration of all gun owners in America.

The move resulted in a loud outcry from the National Rifle Association. A group of Republicans on the powerful U.S. Senate Banking Committee even sent a letter to the Bank Policy Institute detailing their concern over the scheme.

“The creation of the new MCC was celebrated widely by liberal Democrats and gun-control advocates,” the letter stated. “They have made it clear this is just the beginning of their campaign to block legal purchases of firearms. Next, large retailers that do not fall under the new MCC will be pressured to adopt the MCC at specific registers within their stores or use unique codes for firearm purchases. Credit card companies will be pushed to develop algorithms that label legal gun purchases as suspicious activity based on such codes. Eventually, liberal activists and financial regulators will press banks to block these perfectly legal transactions.”

Because of the pushback, credit-card companies have temporarily suspended plans to implement the use of unique firearm retailer MCCs. Realizing the danger, however, some pro-freedom legislators have become proactive by taking the initiative to ban the use of such codes by retailers in their states.

Upon Texas Gov. Abbott’s signature of H.B. 2837, Texas and Montana will join Florida, Idaho, Mississippi, North Dakota and West Virginia in enacting laws to protect firearm purchasers’ privacy when using credit cards at firearm retailers. Additionally, federal legislation similar to these state laws is currently pending in Congress.

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