National Shooting Sports Foundation officials say credit card companies see themselves as ‘above the rules.’
New Hampshire legislators are considering a bill to protect the privacy of firearms purchasers while preventing gun control through financial restrictions.
The New Hampshire House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee held a public hearing on Feb. 2, 2024, for HB 1186, which would prohibit credit card and finance companies from mandating Merchant Category Codes for transactions at businesses that sell firearms, ammunition, or gun accessories.
The bill is scheduled for an executive session on Feb. 12. In New Hampshire, members of the public may attend a legislative committee’s executive session as observers. During the executive session, the committee will write a report on the proposed legislation based on the public hearing and the committee’s own research and discussion.
According to the National Rifle Association’s Institute for Legislative Affairs (NRA-ILA), the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) in 2022 approved a Merchant Category Code (MCC) for gun dealers. The code allows payment processors, banks, and finance companies to track and collect information on specific transactions.
The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Jason Janvrin, R-District 40, said the bill is meant to prevent financial institutions from using the codes to track or restrict firearms transactions.
In addition to outlawing MCCs, HB 1186 would also empower New Hampshire’s Attorney General to investigate and prosecute any company caught requiring such codes as a condition to do business.
Mr. Janvrin told the committee that the MCC violates a 2018 amendment to New Hampshire’s state constitution guaranteeing New Hampshire residents’ right to privacy. He said that, based on what he has found in other states, the codes will initially be very broad. They will apply to businesses that sell firearms and ammunition but also carry other items.
Mr. Janvrin emphasized that the bill would not eliminate all MCCs. It would only prohibit codes specific to firearms.
“If I go to Bass Pro Shop and buy hiking boots, a backpacking tent, a frame pack, hiking poles, Black Rifle Coffee, a Gortex jacket, rain pants, and a kayak, and I get to the register and I use my credit card and it comes up as a purchase of about $4,000 I don’t want somebody mistaking that I went out and purchased a firearm. So basically, the bill is telling these places that they cannot use a code specific for firearms,” he said.
According to the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), New Hampshire has joined Utah, Tennessee, Indiana, Georgia, Kentucky, Wisconsin, and Ohio in considering financial transaction privacy legislation.
The NRA-ILA reported that Idaho, West Virginia, Mississippi, North Dakota, Florida, Montana, and Texas, among other states, have already outlawed the codes.
But other states have passed, or are considering, laws requiring the codes.
At its annual Sports, Hunting, Outdoors, Trade (SHOT) Show in Las Vegas, Nevada, in January, representatives of the NSSF said that California has implemented Assembly Bill 1587 “to require a payment card network to make the merchant category code for firearms and ammunition businesses established by the International Organization for Standardization.”
The law requires credit card and finance companies to set a code to identify transactions at firearms retailers and businesses that sell ammunition, guns, and gun accessories. The law was part of a package of bills passed in California last September.
The NSSF representatives say that once the system is established, it will be refined from tracking general transactions at certain retailers to identifying the types of products purchased.
This would set up a system that could be used to track firearms, they said.
Michael Findley, the NSSF’s Director of Government Relations–State Affairs for the West Coast, said the California legislature passed its MCC law immediately after Texas passed a law outlawing the codes. Mr. Findley expects other blue states to follow California’s lead.
“I call California a petri dish. It’s going to grow there, and it’s going to be nasty. And then, if we don’t contain it, it’s going to come to a state that you live in pretty soon,” Mr. Findley said during the seminar.
He and other NSSF representatives said big credit card and finance companies have tried to impose gun control by making it impossible for gun makers and dealers to process their transactions.
Under the ESG Umbrella
The representatives said the laws typically fall under the Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) umbrella.
This is a method of doing business that places promoting environmental, social, and political agendas ahead of making profits. In recent months, many corporations have rebelled against ESG, saying it shortchanges investors while doing little, if anything, to achieve its stated objectives.
Darren LaSorte, NSSF’s Director of Government Relations–State Affairs for the South Central region, said the big credit card companies know they wield enormous financial clout and can absorb more losses than the smaller financial institutions.
“They literally feel like they are above the rules,” Mr. LaSorte said at the SHOT show.
But Mr. Janvrin told the New Hampshire committee that several states were able to slow the spread of the codes—at least for the time being.
“In March , after several Houses of Representatives and Senates across the country introduced legislation to stop this type of, uh, registry, the Visa MasterCard and American Express said that they were going to pause their plans,” he said.
Nephi Cole, NSSF’s Director of Government Relations–State Affairs, Rocky Mountain region, said gun owners will have to stand together to protect their financial privacy and their Second Amendment rights.
“It’s a fight we have to keep up,” he said.