Pre-Approved! NYC gun retailers will now have merchant category codes for tracking

New York City officials took to the steps of City Hall Monday to celebrate the enforcement of gun merchant category codes.

The International Organization for Standardization has approved the creation of a merchant category code for gun retailers following an application by Amalgamated Bank for standalone gun and ammunition stores. This will allow firearms purchased with credit cards to be tracked in hopes of preventing mass shootings.

After lobbying for the safety measure, a coalition made up of the likes of Attorney General Letitia James, Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, Comptroller Brad Lander, and more gathered to share what this will mean.

“We know, of course, that it’s only a matter of time before the next mass shooting. And so often those mass shootings are somebody who went to multiple gun stores amassed ammunition and weapons, planned and prepared to murder dozens of people in their community. And yet, all this time, even though there has been an emerging category codes for bike shops and nail salons and barber shops, the International Standards Organization has not yet created, and the credit card companies have not yet begun to use something as simple as a merchant category code for standalone gun shops,” Comptroller Lander said. “But thanks for this extraordinary coalition today. That is finally happening.”

Comptroller Brad Lander. Photo by Dean Moses

Elected officials say guns that are bought to use in mass shootings are often acquired in bulk and paid for using brand-new cards. Thanks to these four-digit numbers those financial institutions use to identify businesses by the types of goods or services sold, suspicious activity can be flagged and tracked the same way credit card fraud is. According to Lander, American Express, MasterCard, and Visa have all agreed to use the codes.

“I can’t count the number of funerals that I’ve attended. I can’t tell you how many events that I’ve attended where blood splattered across the streets of New York City and across New York State. I cannot tell you how many parents that I’ve held in my arms, and how many funerals that I’ve prayed over open caskets,” James said. “Today is another step forward in addressing gun violence and preventing senseless gun violence on the streets of New York. And all across this nation. After years of advocacy, a credit card code will finally be created for gun purchases.”

Attorney General Letitia James. Photo by Dean Moses

Elected officials hope that these codes will be new tools in a growing arsenal to combat the ever-growing threat of gun violence. Comptroller Lander and the trustees of the New York City Employees’ Retirement System, Teachers’ Retirement System and Board of Education Retirement Systems called for the creation of a code last month.

“These victories come far and few between, so we gotta take this time to celebrate it,” Public Advocate Williams said.

Public Advocate Jumaane Williams. Photo by Dean Moses