CLARKSBURG, W.Va. (WBOY) — West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey Thursday wrote to the CEOs of Visa Inc., Mastercard Inc. and American Express Inc. asking them to reconsider their plans to track purchases at gun shops and explain what the companies intend to do with the data.
Credit card companies use merchant category codes to identify the type of business in which a merchant is engaged.
The change comes after the International Organization for Standardization approved a petition by New York-based Amalgamated Bank for the creation of a new “merchant category code” for gun retailers, which was supported by some democratic lawmakers and gun control advocacy groups. Previously, those companies put gun purchases under the “general merchandise” category, according to a press release from Morrisey’s office.
Proponents of the change have said that the move will help financial institutions flag “suspicious activity.”
Morrisey’s letters to the CEOs of Visa, Mastercard and American Express, in part, say:
Your company needs to reverse course.
Absent such change, we have serious concerns how your company will maintain this new data on firearms purchases. I therefore request you provide the following in response to this letter:
(1) Your plan to avoid breaches of privacy now that your company intends to maintain significant new data on cardholders, including but not limited to the mechanisms for ensuring compliance with data security and protection expectations and requirements;
(2) An explanation of the intended use of this data, including but not limited to any issues arising in recent or prior communications with government agencies or officials;
(3) An explanation of how cardholders will be notified when their individual data has been accessed by a government agency or third party.
Please provide your response to this letter by Friday, September 30, 2022.
We will continue to analyze this situation and, based on that analysis and your response, determine how best to proceed. This office is committed to ensuring that your company is prohibited from any practice that discriminated against or in any way penalizes any business subject to the new merchant code and any individuals impacted by your decision.West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey’s letters to the CEOs of Visa, American Express and Mastercard
West Virginia State Treasurer Riley Moore also came out against the tracking of gun and ammo purchases by credit card companies, raising his concerns that the change could potentially violate laws prohibiting the federal government from establishing a national gun registry.