Buy guns with cash, or check your credit card company’s user agreement.
That’s the advice of a Second-Amendment expert who reflected Tuesday on credit card companies’ imminent ability to track gun and ammunition purchases with a specific code for firearms vendors.
Mastercard, Visa, and American Express announced last week that they would soon be implementing a new vendor code adopted by the International Organization for Standardization. The code is specific to gun vendors, which were formerly categorized under “sporting goods” or “miscellaneous” vendor codes.
Credit card companies now can report “suspicious“ gun purchases to law enforcement.
The companies had resisted the measure this summer, however, with Visa expressing fears that the code could allow banks to stop gun sales.
There’s nothing overtly illegal or unconstitutional about using a new code for gun sellers, said George Mocsary, law professor at the University of Wyoming and Second-Amendment expert.
However, the code could put society on a tipping point with respect to firearms and privacy rights, he said.
“Where legal issues might come into play, is if the banks or credit card companies stopped allowing their cardholders to make purchases from gun stores,” said Mocsary. “That would be a problem.”
Banks, he said, are specially protected and permitted by the government, and therefore are in a separate category from other private businesses.
“It could be perfectly acceptable for private parties to decide who they do business with,” said Mocsary. “But when it comes to being licensed by the government and having this special space carved out for you via regulation, then it can become a (constitutional) problem.”
Mocsary said he would recommend that gun buyers use cash in firearms purchases.
He also was concerned that the term “suspicious” has not yet been defined with respect to the new code, adding that if large expenditures are the only criteria of a “suspicious” sale, then a lot of gun sales could be flagged – because many guns are expensive.
Terms And Use
Mocsary said his other recommendation to gun buyers and credit card customers is to check their credit-card companies’ terms and use agreements.
While typically law enforcement agencies such as the FBI would obtain a warrant to access credit card records, a company could impose a terms and use agreement on its customers that allows law enforcement access without a warrant, said Mocsary.
This also happens with other kinds of information.
“I knew someone who worked at a federal agency… and when they wanted emails from Google they’d just send a letter to Google and get an email if they wanted it – very quickly,” he said. “They didn’t have to go through a warrant.”
Businesses may stipulate that customers’ records shall be open to government searches because, said Mocsary, “no business wants to be in the government’s crosshairs.”
The FBI did not respond to an emailed request for comment Tuesday morning. The ATF in an email to Cowboy State Daily declined to discuss its investigation methods.
The gun-vendor code was adopted following a push by Amalgamated Bank, in New York, some Democratic lawmakers in Congress and New York authorities.
Amalgamated on Friday lauded the announcement that the International Organization for Standardization board had approved the code, saying it answers “the call of millions of Americans who want safety from gun violence and we are proud to have led the broad coalition of advocates, shareholders, and elected officials that achieved this historic outcome.”
Igor Volsky, founder and executive director of Guns Down America, said in the same press release that the change will make it easier to stop illegal activity.
“We are grateful that the financial sector has stopped stalling and finally understands the problem, which is that credit card purchases have consistently been involved in some of our nation’s worst mass shootings,” said Volsky.
Between 2007 and 2018, there were 13 mass shootings that killed 10 or more people, according to the New York Times. Eight of those attacks were financed with credit cards.
‘To Violate The Privacy’
While the brutality of mass shootings cannot be understated, they are still the exception rather than the norm, said Mocsary.
In recent years, about one out of every 1 million to 10 million firearms was used in a mass shooting, said Mocsary.
“That’s an exceedingly low number to violate the privacy of all firearm purchasers,” he said.
Mocsary listed hypothetical parallel situations, in which people could be investigated or flagged after spending money at adult bookstores, or money at Planned Parenthood, or with vendors related to disfavored political activism.
“And then (if) those (shoppers) were investigated for high risk – would we ever hear the end of it?” he asked.