Visa, MasterCard and American Express said the new category could help prevent gun violence.
Knoxville, Tenn. — Visa, MasterCard and American Express will begin marking gun sales on receipts and statements differently than other purchases. This is a change from how these sales are currently classified as “general merchandise”. Credit card companies said it could help prevent gun violence.
Gun control activists said it could help predict mass shootings before they happen, and it would allow law enforcement to see if someone is buying a lot of guns or ammunition. Opponents said they believe the change would unfairly attack gun shops and law-abiding gun owners.
Steve Smith is the General Manager of SET Guns and Range in Oak Ridge. He is also a gun collector and enthusiast. He said that for security reasons, he did not like the idea of a legal gun purchase being tracked and monitored.
“One of the things that’s supposed to make America great is the right to privacy,” Smith said. “It’s a question of personal protection. I don’t want people who may not have the same vision as me of other people’s property, knowing what I have”,
Federal data from 2016 shows that people charged with crimes may be less likely to buy guns legally. The Justice Department interviewed inmates arrested for gun crimes and found around 10% of them had purchased this weapon under their name from an authorized dealer.
According to the data, most inmates purchased the weapon from an “underground market”. However, some advocates say tracking gun sales at stores could help prevent more guns from being sold illegally later.
“It’s nobody’s business what lawful people do,” Smith said.
On the other side, local advocates said they see the change in the merchant code as one step in a broader push to increase pressure on the gun industry.
Terry Walker-Smith experienced the pain of losing a son not once, but twice. Djuansay was stabbed to death in 2007 and his brother Christopher was shot two years later. Thursday marked 13 years since his murder.
“If it’s a measure for gun safety, then I’m all for it,” Walker Smith said. “He was sitting on the porch waiting for his son to come home and he was shot.”
She cries for her boys every day. This is what led her to campaign against communal violence. She works with Moms Demand Action in Knoxville, advocating for a safer future. She hopes this new way of tracking gun purchases will hold retailers accountable.
“To save someone else’s life, because I can’t save his,” she said. “The devastation that I have to live with – you see these kids, they’re not safe at school, they’re not safe at church, you’re not safe at a grocery store. Where can you go? are you safe?”
It’s unclear if or how information from the new code would be shared with law enforcement.
“The right to own and bear arms is enshrined in our Constitution. American citizens are free to protect themselves, and the rights of law-abiding gun owners must not be infringed,” Rep. Tim Burchett wrote. in a letter to Visa, Mastercard and American Express.
Card companies say they will work to support legal purchases and protect consumer privacy.