December 07, 2023

Senator Warren, Representative Dean Push Credit Card Companies for Answers on Implementation of MCC Code for Gun and Ammunition Retailers

“The financial industry is uniquely positioned to identify suspicious transactions that could help prevent the next mass shooting in this country.”

Text of Letters (PDF)

Washington, D.C.  – United States Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Representative Madeleine Dean (D-Pa.) led their colleagues in a letter to American Express, Visa, Mastercard, and Discover, requesting they explain why their companies have paused the implementation of a new Merchant Category Code (MCC) for gun and ammunition retailers that could help flag suspicious firearm purchases and prevent gun violence, gun trafficking, and domestic terrorism.

“We request that you resume this work and quickly implement the new firearm retailer MCC,” wrote the lawmakers. “We also ask that you provide us with information to understand American Express’s hesitation to take this particular course of action to help prevent gun trafficking, gun violence, and domestic terrorism.”

In September 2022, the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) created a new MCC, a four-digit code to classify merchants by their purpose of business, for sellers of guns and ammunition. This new code will help companies identify and flag suspicious purchases of firearms, like those that occurred before the Pulse nightclub and Aurora movie theater shootings. Lawmakers highlighted the financial industry’s unique position to help prevent the next mass shooting in this country. 

“It is likely that, if a firearm and ammunition retailer MCC had been operational at the time of those mass shootings, the uncharacteristically large sums spent on credit cards at firearm retailers within a short time span would have been recognized as suspicious and could have been flagged for law enforcement,” wrote the lawmakers. 

Despite the clear need for this simple category change, these four major credit card companies announced in March they were pausing their work to implement this rule, citing proposed state legislation as the rationale for their decisions. In the letter, the lawmakers argued that the credit card companies should instead take direction from the federal government and “at a minimum implement the MCC in all states where it remains legal.”

“(These companies) already (have) the processes in place to detect crimes such as money laundering and financial support for terrorist organizations,” concluded the lawmakers. “Given that (they have) the capacity to implement the firearm and ammunition retailer MCC and flag suspicious patterns of purchases, (their) pause in adoption of this MCC signals an unwillingness to address (their) role in financing gun trafficking, gun violence, and acts of domestic terrorism.” 

The letter was also signed by Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Kirsten Gillibrand D-N.Y.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), and Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and Representatives Jake Auchincloss (D-Mass.), Julia Brownley (D-Calif.), Troy Carter (D-La.), Sean Casten (D-Ill.), Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick (D-Fla.), Jason Crow (D-Colo.), Danny Davis (D-Ill.), Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.), Adriano Espaillat (D-N.Y.), Valerie Foushee (D-N.C.), Lois Frankel (D-Fla.), Maxwell Alejandro Frost (D-Fla.), Robert Garcia (D-Calif.), Sylvia Garcia (D-Texas), Dan Goldman (D-N.Y.), Al Green (D-Texas), Jahana Hayes (D-Conn.), Glenn Ivey (D-Md.), Hank Johnson (D-Ga.), Robin Kelly (D-Ill.), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas), Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), Doris Matsui (D-Calif.), Betty McCollum (D-Minn.), Grace Meng (D-N.Y.), Jared Moskowitz (D-Fla.), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.), Donald Payne (D-N.J.), Chellie Pingree (D-Maine), Delia Ramirez (D-Ill.), Andrea Salinas (D-Ore.), Mary Gay Scanlon (D-Pa.), Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), Bradley Schneider (D-Ill.), Shri Thanedar (D-Mich.), Mike Thompson (D-Calif.), Nydia Velázquez (D-N.Y.), Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-N.J.), Nikema Williams (D-Ga.), and Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.).

Senator Warren has led efforts to implement common-sense gun violence prevention measures that protect American communities and save lives, including: 

  • Yesterday, Senator Warren and Representative Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) reintroduced the Gun Violence Prevention and Community Safety Act, comprehensive  legislation to help end gun violence in America.
  • In November 2023, Senator Warren and Representative Maxwell Frost (D-Fla.) sent a letter to six major financial institutions calling on them to provide critical information on their efforts to end their financial investments in the gun industry. 
  • In March 2023, Senators Warren 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. 
  • 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 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, which would help 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.