Banks and credit card companies are looking at ways to pinpoint gun purchases via their payment systems in what could be the first step in restricting purchases of guns.
The Wall Street Journal, citing people familiar with the discussions, reported the talks are in the early stages and would bring a lot of pushback from pro-gun groups. Still, the financial companies are looking at ways to help in the wake of the school shooting in Parkland, Florida that left 17 dead. The companies have looked at developing a new credit card code for gun dealers, similar to how they classify restaurants and department stores with different codes. In another idea being discussed, merchants would have to provide information about the specific gun a customer was purchasing. Armed with the data, the banks and credit card companies could restrict purchases at businesses or stay on top of them.
The Wall Street Journal noted the talks are not formal, and nothing could come of it. It does come as the national debate rages over gun control, with the financial firms getting support and pushback at the same time. The paper pointed to Senate Banking Committee Chairman Mike Crapo, a Republican from Idaho, who penned a letter to Citigroup and Bank of America complaining about their decisions to enforce new policies on its customers in the gun industry and their moves to stop doing business with some gun makers. In the wake of the Parkland, Florida school shooting, Citigroup adopted a new code of conduct for the gun companies that do business with the bank. The code restricts sales for buyers who are under the age of 21. A Citigroup spokesman said the new code of conduct doesn’t impact the ability for Citi customers to buy guns with their credit and debit cards. The spokesman said the bank is “focused on implementing its firearms policy and not on conversations around identifying gun purchases.” Meanwhile, a week earlier the American Federation of Teachers said it wouldn’t work with Wells Fargo because it won’t talk to the union about its relationship with the National Rifle Association and gun makers.
In addition to sparking passions on both sides of the argument, if the financial firms moved forward, it could raise privacy concerns. “There’s the slippery slope danger if it’s guns today maybe it is pornography tomorrow and the day after it’s right-wing literature,” Adam Levitin, professor of law at Georgetown University told the Wall Street Journal. It wouldn’t be an unprecedented move by the financial industry. After all, The Wall Street Journal pointed out, they have blocked consumers from making purchases they thought were risky or prone to fraud or in the gray area of the market. They also monitor for suspicious activity to identify potential money laundering or transactions that are going to fund terrorism.