March 16, 2023

Warren, Menendez Lead Effort Urging Treasury, DOJ to Issue Guidance to Financial Institutions for Implementation of MCC Code for Gun and Ammunition Retailers

“Implementation of the new MCC code could provide banks with key insight to identify suspicious patterns of firearm and ammunition purchases, which could potentially help law enforcement preempt mass shootings”

Text of Letter (PDF)

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) sent a letter to the U.S. Department of the Treasury and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), urging the departments to issue guidance to financial institutions for the full implementation of the new merchant category (MCC) code that the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) approved last year for gun and ammunition stores. The swift application of the MCC code would equip financial institutions to flag suspicious activity for the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), which could help reduce the scourge of gun violence and tackle firearms trafficking and other criminal activity.

“We urge Treasury and DOJ to quickly publish any policy advisory, enforcement guidance, and other materials needed by financial institutions, retailers, and law enforcement as the new MCC code is implemented for gun and ammunition stores,” wrote the lawmakers. “We also ask Treasury, with input from the DOJ, to issue guidance to financial institutions regarding circumstances that should prompt financial firms to file a suspicious activity report about transactions they suspect are related to trafficking in firearms, money laundering proceeds from trafficking in firearms, or other criminal activity.”

This effort comes on the heels of recent developments, in which Visa, Mastercard, and American Express have paused the implementation of the new MCC code because some Republican-led states are actively working to block its enactment. The senators believe these credit card companies have a responsibility to push forward, and Treasury and DOJ should provide them, and other financial institutions, with the proper tools for implementation in a timely manner.

The senators highlighted that in the majority of mass shootings between 2007 and 2018 the shooter used credit or debit cards to acquire the guns and ammunition used in the attack. Therefore, banks issuing those cards are in a unique position to flag suspicious buying patterns in a way that law enforcement, family members, and retailers cannot.

“Financial firms are already obligated to report suspicious transactions connected with a range of illegal activities,” concluded the senators. “Implementation of the new MCC code could provide banks with key insight to identify suspicious patterns of firearm and ammunition purchases, which could potentially help law enforcement preempt mass shootings.”

In addition to Senators Warren and Menendez, the letter was also signed by Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), and Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.).

  • In December 2022, Senator Warren reintroduced the Gun Violence Prevention and Community Safety Act, which includes and builds upon Congressional Democrats' strongest gun safety legislation in one bold, comprehensive bill that works to end the epidemic of gun violence in America. 
  • In September 2022, Senator Warren and Representative Madeleine Dean (D-Pa.) sent letters to the CEOs of MasterCard, American Express, and Visa urging them to support the creation of a new merchant category code for gun and ammunition retailers and to request information about their reported opposition to Amalgamated Bank’s application for such a code.
  • In October 2022, Senator Warren joined Senator Markey in a letter to President Biden calling for the Administration to to return oversight of the export of firearms, including ghost guns, and their technical data to the Department of State 
  • In April 2020, Senator Warren joined Senators Markey, Blumenthal , and Murphy,  and 12 of their colleagues today in calling for strengthening background checks amidst a massive increase in gun sales during the coronavirus emergency. 
  • In November 2018, Senator Warren introduced the most sweeping set of ethics, lobbying, and anti-corruption reforms in Congress, the Anti-Corruption and Public Integrity Act, in order to break the stranglehold of the National Rifle Association and other big-money groups on Congress and pass critical reforms to protect Americans, including common-sense gun laws.