The financial industry declared war on the firearm industry several years ago. We’ve all seen it, too. Various businesses suddenly found the various financial companies they did business with cut them off without warning or cause.
The only justification was that they sold guns. Then there was a push to have credit card companies start tracking who was buying guns.
That was being billed as a way to prevent mass shooting, but absolutely no one bought that line of “reasoning.” Mass shooters generally just buy a gun or two at a time, much like people with lawful intentions might. It was just another way to track who had guns and who didn’t.
As a result, a number of states explicitly outlawed the practice, one that never formally went into effect yet still lingers on the peripheral of the industry. They haven’t done it, but it’s clear they want to.
So I get why Indiana is looking to do the same thing.
A House committee on Thursday heard testimony — but delayed a vote — for a bill that some said would preserve gun owner privacy but that financial institutions feared could burden them with hefty compliance costs.
“This bill is in response to activism by large corporations and global organizations who sought to institute new merchant category codes to track firearm purchases,” Rep. Jake Teshka, R-North Liberty, told the committee.
An international standards organization — of which the U.S. is a member — approved a code specific to firearm sellers in 2022.
That decision followed advocacy from prominent Democrats like U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, and was spearheaded by the self-described “socially responsible” Amalgamated Bank of New York, Reuters reports. At the time, advocates said the code could help track suspicious purchase activity linked to mass shootings.
Major payment networks like Mastercard and Visa announced in 2023 that they’d paused implementation work, citing pushback, according to Reuters. And several states have blocked use of the code.
Teshka and his bill’s supporters want Indiana to be the next.
However, there is opposition.
It seems that while no gun control proponents offered testimony–a surprising fact, if you ask me–the banking industry was represented.
[Executive vice president of the Indiana Credit Union League Chris] Beaumont said it’s the payment networks that control whether the code gets used.
He and the Indiana Bankers Association’s Ross Teare said the networks pass the codes down to payment processors and depository institutions, which house the codes and other information “on the back end.”
They said the bill would require them to keep watch for codes on every transaction, then root out those that pop up.
Beaumont said that’s a “really high regulatory burden, particularly for a lot of smaller credit unions that just don’t have the manpower and technology.”
I’m sympathetic to Beaumont’s plight, but ultimately I find that the sympathy for their difficulty doesn’t translate into caring enough to actually have an issue with the bill as it stands.
I generally oppose most government regulations on general principle. This time, though, it’s a little different. If credit card companies hadn’t tried this stuff in the first place, none of this would have been needed. The governments of this nation would have simply allowed them to do what they’ve been doing.
But when an activist bank started agitating for the credit card industry to somehow get involved in the gun debate, they caved. They caved hard.
Sure, they got enough pushback that they stopped in their tracks, but how long is that status quo going to remain? Literally no one knows if it’s permanent or if they’re just waiting for the furor to die down.
Hence Indiana and other states inserting themselves in the process.
And frankly, if enough states do, the regulatory burden on smaller banks will be nonexistent. The reason? If it’s illegal to track in enough states, there’s no point in tracking anywhere. It forces the credit card industry as a whole to abandon any future attempts to insert itself in this sort of thing.
If there are no illegal codes to worry about, then companies don’t have to worry about them. It’s pretty straight forward.
So here’s hoping this bill comes to pass in Indiana and elsewhere.