Wyoming Banks: Gun-Tracking, Political Movements Use Banks As ‘Pawns’

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By Clair McFarland, Cowboy State Daily
Clair@CowboyStateDaily.com

A group representing Wyoming’s banks opposes a new merchant code that will categorize credit-card purchases made in gun shops.  

Scott Meier, president and CEO of the Wyoming Bankers Association, told Cowboy State Daily in an email Thursday that the new merchant category code specific to gun stores was created in deference to one bank’s “single perspective,” without input from the whole sector – and that the code could become a surveillance mechanism.   

Major credit card companies announced Sept. 9 that they’re adopting a new purchase code specific to gun vendors, following the creation of that code by their shared standards body, the International Organization for Standardization.  

Credit-card companies also may report “suspicious” gun purchases to law enforcement, according to Amalgamated Bank, which spearheaded the effort to create the code.  

‘Surveillance’ 

It is “a possibility” for outside parties to use credit card records as surveillance on gun purchases, Meier said in a Friday phone interview with Cowboy State Daily.  

“We don’t really know what they’re going to do with that stuff,” said Meier. “(Credit-card companies) have your name on the credit card, and they can see you’re buying something at that store. … If it’s a store that sells (mostly) firearms or ammunition, then they’ll know what you’re buying, roughly.”  

Meier said in his Thursday email that the Wyoming Bankers Association “opposes any efforts to use the banking industry for surveillance.”  

The American Bankers Association and the Independent Community Bankers of America also oppose surveillance efforts, Meier said. Neither national organization responded Friday morning to Cowboy State Daily emails requesting comment.  

One Bank 

Applications for new merchant category codes are generally first considered by an industry group of advisors, though the ISO has the ultimate say in whether to grant the new code, Meier said.  

He said the gun-codes request was advanced as a “single perspective” by just one bank, Amalgamated Bank, rather than by a group of banks and banking professionals.  

Amalgamated, said Meier, “is a labor union-founded bank that has a unique focus on providing banking services to organizations affiliated with progressive causes.”  

Amalgamated did not immediately respond to a Cowboy State Daily email requesting comment.  

Meier also indicated that the application for a gun-shop merchant code wasn’t well announced.  

“ISO did not notify the American financial services community of this pending application from Amalgamated Bank,” he said.   

‘Pawns’ 

Meier on Friday expressed disagreement with government use of banks for political purposes across the board – by the political Left or Right, by the state or federal governments.   

He said while international and national banks have been implementing policies against firearms or fossil fuels businesses, those banks can’t be regulated by Wyoming law because they’re not in Wyoming. He also said small Wyoming community banks aren’t trying to edge out firearms and fossil fuels businesses.

And yet, Meier said, Wyoming legislators often try to create restrictions on Wyoming banks that don’t match Wyoming community banks’ business models.  

“Honestly in this new society, with everybody having their own definition of what is ‘woke’ and what is not – whether it’s politicians or whatever it is – they want to use the banks as pawns, almost,” he said.  

Meier said Wyoming community banks want the freedom to make business decisions that make sense financially without undue government involvement.  

“They keep putting us in the middle of this (political struggle),” said Meier. “But we’re just like any other business: if it makes sense and it’s legal, we ought to be able to do it.”  

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