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Proposed Banking Merchant Category Codes Latest Backdoor Ploy to ID Gun Owners

Banking merchant category codes would allow credit card companies to identify gun purchasers and track purchase and sale transactions. 

Proposed Banking Merchant Category Codes Latest Backdoor Ploy to ID Gun Owners

(Talaj photo / Shutterstock)

“While there are merchant codes for the hair salon and the shoe shine place and every other retailer, there’s no merchant code for gun stores,” Priscilla Sims Brown, president & CEO of Amalgamated Bank, told CNBC’s Andrew Ross Sorkin. “If we did have a merchant code for gun stores, we could detect patterns that would indicate that there had been something unusual going on.”

And the benchmark for turning in a “valued customer” is...?

“Credit card companies could detect any unusual activity, and submit a suspicious activity report with law enforcement, if needed,” the report elaborated. “This type of activity monitoring would prove to be particularly important, Brown said, in detecting when someone purchases large amounts of weapons, or when someone is buying weapons for somebody that is not legally allowed to do so.”

“A suspicious activity report...” How American. And how will they determine “if needed”?

“Software would be able to detect, for example, if someone spent $1,000 at a firearm store, and on the same day, received a $1,000 deposit from someone who is not legally allowed to purchase firearms themselves,” the report explained.

The software would know “prohibited person” status? How? Are banks now going to tap into NICS and perform after-the-fact “background checks”? How is such data sharing with private parties authorized by law?

“The merchant code doesn’t go to the SKU [Stock Keeping Unit, erroneously closed-captioned in the report as “SKEW”] level,” Brown told Sorkin in a related Squawk Box video. She’s pretty obviously trying to disingenuously minimize privacy concerns and objections from rights advocates. “It doesn’t tell us what you purchased within the business but tells you that you made a purchase from a particular type of business.”

So, someone who might traditionally buy a couple hundred dollars’ worth of ammo on several visits a year might come in and decide it’s time to upgrade to that $7K gun safe. A hoplophobe bankster could very well consider that “unusual activity,” because for that customer it is. Better inform the authorities—just to be sure...

“In addition, the type of mass purchasing that MCCs would allow banks to detect ... a pattern in the buying history of recent mass shooters in the U.S.” the report elaborated.

Again, how? And now we can add “mass purchasing” to the gun-grabber lexicon? They do realize that the term “mass shooters” includes your average Chi-Town gangbangers ready to unload on anyone and everyone at the slightest perceived inconvenience or grievance?

“Banks can use the data to help mass shootings and purchases in advance without infringing on Second Amendment rights,” Sorkin dutifully gushes to drive home the point that “there’s no infringement here.”

Right. That’s why the takeaway is they’re champing at the bit to report activity they find “unusual,” and therefore “suspicious,” to the guys with guns and badges. That’s why they make a point of comparing it to tabulating hair salon transaction data. And they justify it all by doing what gun haters do best—amping up the paranoia. 


If only they’d had gun codes, they strongly imply, the mass killer in Las Vegas (assuming we can trust the official narrative and there really was only one), who racked up $90,000 in charges prior to the slaughter, might have been stopped! How he could have been is another matter altogether, since at that point no crime had yet been committed. It also conveniently ignores that just a minute earlier, Brown was saying $1,000 could be a sufficient threshold to sic law enforcement on some hapless citizen.

So much for your right to privacy. And so much for creating records through Merchant Category Codes that do an end run around statutory prohibitions on creating a gun owner database.

Banking on Disarmament

This is just the latest in a history of banking industry hostility toward the right of its customers to keep and bear arms, made all the more obnoxious when you realize that when they mismanage themselves into a corner, it’s the government funded by “We the People” they turn to for “too big to fail” bailouts. 

Remember Obama’s “Operation Chokepoint,” a joint venture between the Department of Justice, the Federal Trade Commission, and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation? Called by some “the stop and frisk of the banking industry,” Chokepoint lumped firearms and ammunition dealers in with escort services, the porn industry, Ponzi schemes and the like under the presumption that the industry, subject to bend-and-spread-‘em audits at the whim of ATF, somehow also lent itself to money laundering, drug trafficking, and fraud. 

Then there were/are iOS/Android payment processors, exemplified by Square (the name has since been changed to Block), a venture co-founded by former Twitter CEO and current multi-billionaire leftist Jack Dorsey. A 2013 change to the Square seller’s agreement forbade “payments in connection with … sales of (i) firearms, firearm parts or hardware, and ammunition; or (ii) weapons and other devices designed to cause physical injury.”

Unable to keep its elitist virtue-signaling impulse in check, Citigroup set restrictions on firearm sales by its customers following the murderous exploitation of the Parkland “gun-free zone.”

The previous month, First National Bank of Omaha announced it would not renew a contract with the National Rifle Association for its Visa card, one of several companies that decided public perception meant throwing Association members under the bus by ending discount relationships.

Not to be outdone, Bank of America soon thereafter announced it would stop lending to companies that make “military-style” rifles for the civilian market and JP Morgan Chase said it had “limited” relations and would “continue to always refine … robust risk management practices and policies associated with this.” PNC Financial Services Group pointed out it has been discouraging new loans to gun manufacturers for years and had “very limited exposure” to clients that manufacture such firearms.

An interesting side note about JP Morgan: The financial services giant offered a key ATF decision-maker in the Operation Fast and Furious “gunwalking” criminal enterprise, the opportunity to “double dip” while awaiting retirement. 

Why would they do that?

“JP Morgan has ATF's credit card account,” an ATF whistleblower source told me.

“I am looking at my card right now,” another insider source replied. “On the back, ‘The use of this card is governed by the cardholder agreement. This card is issued by JP Morgan Chase Bank, N.A. pursuant to a license by MasterCard International.’”

“In June 2007, the Office of Charge Card Management awarded the GSA SmartPay 2 master contracts to Citibank, JP Morgan Chase, and U.S. Bank,” the General Services Administration website confirmed.

And unsurprisingly, meaning totally in character for these characters, JP Morgan Chase terminated the account of the Wiki Weapon Project’s company, Defense Distributed “without warning or explanation.”

But Wait! There’s More!

Merchant Category Codes aren’t the only way for the government to ID gun owners.

“Several major holster manufacturers/providers received notices from the Department of Commerce Census Bureau requesting order numbers, product descriptions, and where the items were being shipped,” AmmoLand News investigative reporter John Crump informs his readers. “The Census Bureau claims that these companies are bound by law to turn over all requested information.”

That means if you don’t give up your customers, they’re coming for you.

Why would they want this information, aside from for their Commodity Flow Survey, which still doesn’t explain “why”? 

“Using holster data, the government could potentially figure out where people plan on concealing a firearm and match that up against permitting data to determine who will be carrying arms without going through the ‘proper’ channels to carry a gun,” Crump observes.

And that bring us back full circle to those “suspicious activity reports” Priscilla Sims Brown and CNBC cheerleader Andrew Ross Sorkin are salivating at the prospect of turning in on their countrymen. That would be a “public/private partnership” that some (like me) believe could better be described as “economic fascism.” 

Because what does government do when it thinks it may have the goods on a gun owner? It abuses privacy-invading information to go on fishing expeditions, of course.

That’s the chilling scenario a homeowner was subjected to when three armed enforcers, two ATF agents and a Delaware State Police trooper, showed up unannounced and warrantless at his door. They wanted him to show them some guns their records indicated he’d purchased, just to make sure he still had them (presumably to prove he hadn’t acted as an illegal strawman purchaser for someone else). And he was but one citizen subjected to this intimidation – they told him they were part of a task force checking on people who had purchased multiple firearms.

No one thinks the Constitution’s Preamble mission statement for government “to secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our posterity” applies to enforcers who ignore “shall not be infringed” for a living, do they? If you want an official blind eye turned to your violations of the rules, especially where ATF and the DSP are involved, you need to have better connections. 

You need to be, say, Hunter Biden, who has evidently lied (at least twice that I can determine) on the ATF Form 4473 Firearms Transaction Record about substance abuse in order to pass the NICS screening. And then you need an ATF taking its orders from the top refusing to say if they are even investigating the felonies because doing so would violate privacy rights.

Like George Carlin famously said, “It’s a big club and you ain’t in it.”

David Codrea 

David Codrea is the winner of multiple journalist awards for investigating/defending the RKBA and a long-time gun owner rights advocate who defiantly challenges the folly of citizen disarmament. In addition to being a regular featured contributor for Firearms News  he blogs at “The War on Guns: Notes from the Resistance,” and posts on Twitter: @dcodrea and Facebook.

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