Time to take matters into your own hands: NYC officials want help from credit card companies to track gun buyers

New York City officials want the country’s credit card companies to help them track down gun buyers who may be contributing to the city’s problem with gun violence.

Mayor Eric Adams, New York City Comptroller Brad Lander, Public Attorney Jumaane Williams and Attorney General Letitia James on Tuesday urged credit card companies to improve their tracking of gun sales.

The call also comes from pension administrators and is directed at three of the biggest companies, Visa, American Express and MasterCard, hoping to track suspicious activity, such as large purchases of firearms or ammunition that can be used to commit crimes, through an established Merchant Category Code (MCC).

Mayor Eric Adams. Photo by Dean Moses

Speakers used the infamous Pulse nightclub shooting as a symbol of how this act could help prevent further mass shootings. Reports say the shooter opened new credit cards and purchased gun inventory prior to the tragedy. Elected officials argued that if firearms had a merchant category code, law enforcement would be able to prevent further mass shootings.

“One hundred and six people die every day in our country because of firearms. And when you think about those numbers, those are astronomical numbers,” Mayor Adams said. “Everyone must play a role and stem the rivers leading to gun violence.”

Attorney General James said every other industry uses merchant category codes, from hair salons to jewelry stores, but firearms remains the only product line that operates code-free. These codes are established by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and exist for grocery, sporting goods and other retailers, and although proposals have been made to ISO to develop codes for retail stores. ‘guns, American Express, MasterCard and Visa were noted that it did not support the proposal. James thinks this is outrageous, because guns can be used not only to commit crimes, but also to end lives.

Attorney General Letitia James. Photo of Dean Moses

“We do this for every other business except firearms, every other business except firearms. Establishing these category codes on firearms and ammunition purchases is a fundamental, common-sense step that would help prevent a future mass shooting or reduce the risk of gun trafficking,” said Attorney General James. “If following these codes could stop a single mass shooting or derail an arms dealer aiming to flood the streets with guns, it would be worth it.”

Following the call for an MCC, 50 New York State lawmakers, led by State Senator Zellnor Myrie and Assemblywoman Chanel Jackson, drafted a letter calling for an arms sales code and ammunition.

“How much is a life worth?” Myria asked. “The flowers we have to put on the casket because guess which florists have a merchant category code. Is it worth the casket we have to put them in because guess what? Funeral services have a merchant category code. Is it worth the suits and dresses we have to wear to the funeral?Because men’s and women’s clothing stores have a merchant category code.

Public Advocate Jumaane Williams. Photo of Dean Moses