Potential buyers try out guns which are displayed on an exhibitor’s table during the Nation’s Gun Show on November 18, 2016 at Dulles Expo Center in Chantilly, Virginia. The show is one of the largest in the area. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares joined a group of attorneys general in criticizing a handful of financial institutions for a new policy that would track and monitor firearm purchases.
At the center of the coalition’s ire is recent action taken by the International Organization for Standardization — a worldwide federation of national standards bodies — that would create a merchant category code for gun stores to use when processing credit and debit card transactions.
The attorneys general outlined their concerns about the new policy in a letter dated Sept. 20 addressed to the CEOs of American Express, Mastercard and Visa. The letter was authored by Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen and Tennessee Attorney General Jonathan Skrmetti and signed by 22 other attorneys general, including Miyares.
“When Virginians lawfully purchase firearms with credit cards, it should be no one’s business but their own,” said Miyares in a statement. “Big government and big business already collect and track enough of our private data. This new policy will do little more than put Virginians’ privacy at risk and discourage law-abiding citizens from exercising their constitutional right to purchase a firearm.”
While it’s unclear if any of the financial institutions have started using the new categorization, the attorneys general say it goes against the U.S. Constitution’s Second Amendment and public safety.
“The new code will not protect public safety. Categorizing the constitutionally protected right to purchase firearms unfairly singles out law-abiding merchants and consumers alike,” the letter reads.
Among the criticisms raised by the letter are concerns about “vague and misleading information” and possible misuse of the data collected.
“Creating and tracking this data only matters if your institutions are considering using that information to take further, harmful action — like infringing upon consumer privacy, inhibiting constitutionally protected purchases by selectively restricting the use of your payment systems, or otherwise withholding your financial services from targeted ‘disfavored’ merchants,” the letter reads.
Miyares and the other attorneys general also characterized the new policy as corporate overreach and a way to further the companies’ social values.
“The new code for gun stores is the result of transnational collusion between large corporations leveraging their market power to further their owners’ desired social outcomes,” the letter states. “Social policy should be debated and determined within our political institutions. Americans are tired of seeing corporate leverage used to advance political goals that cannot muster basic democratic support.”
The letter threatens the companies with legal action if they decide to implement the new categorization, saying the attorneys general “will marshal the full scope of our lawful authority to protect our citizens and consumers from unlawful attempts to undermine their constitutional rights.”
This story was first published by the Daily Montanan, a sister publication of the Virginia Mercury within the States Newsroom network. Mercury editor Sarah Vogelsong contributed reporting.
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