The credit card industry has blocked a novel effort to track suspect firearm and ammunition purchases, depriving law enforcement of a potential tool to identify and stop gun crime.
Documents obtained by CBS News show employees from domestic and international credit card companies, including Visa, Mastercard and American Express, pushed back on an application to create a merchant category code for firearm and ammunition sellers.
The application was first submitted in July 2021 by the New York-based Amalgamated Bank, and was twice denied by the International Standards Organization (ISO), which sets standards across the financial services industry. The documents show that the credit card industry employees were part of an internal committee within ISO that recommended the application’s rejection. The ISO told CBS News the credit card companies only advised the committee and did so in a “personal capacity.”
“So much illegal gun activity depends on your ability to use the financial system to buy the guns,” Priscilla Sims Brown, the CEO of Amalgamated Bank told CBS News chief investigative correspondent Jim Axelrod in an exclusive interview.
Amalgamated was founded by union workers nearly 100 years ago and bills itself as the nation’s oldest socially responsible bank.
“We believe you can do well and do good,” Sims Brown said.
The bank began considering applying for a unique firearms seller code after it said it noticed some of the deadliest mass shootings were being financed with credit cards.
The shooter who terrorized ain 2012 charged more than $9,000 worth of guns, ammunition and tactical gear in the two months leading up to his attack that killed 12 and injured 70.
The man who shot up the, killing 49 people, put more than $26,000 on credit cards.
And the shooter who killed 59 at acharged almost $95,000.
“We have an obligation to address crime that is being facilitated through our system,” Sims Brown said.
What merchant codes for gun sales would yield
Sims Brown said a merchant category code for firearm and ammunition sellers would yield data that could identify a transaction was made at a gun store, while not revealing which individual products were purchased. Merchant codes are used across all sorts of industries.
“So you might be — a nail salon. You might be a sporting goods store. There’s a merchant category code assigned to you, so that we can see that purchase has been made,” Sims Brown said.
And while even shoeshine parlors have their own merchant code, the nearly 9,000 standalone U.S. guns sellers do not. With a unique code for firearm and ammunition sellers, the bank said it could run software to detect purchases in the same way it detects evidence of other suspicious activity, like fraud…