New York City Comptroller Brad Lander has called on American Express, MasterCard, and Visa to support proposals to improve tracking of suspicious gun and ammunition purchases.
In a Tuesday announcement, Lander said he had teamed up with New York Mayor Eric Adams, as well as trustees of the New York City Employees’ Retirement System, Teachers’ Retirement System, and Board of Education Retirement System to push for the establishment of a Merchant Category Code (MCC). The creation of a new code would “help financial institutions detect and report suspicious activity such as unusually large purchases of firearms or ammunition, or purchases from multiple stores, that may be used for criminal purposes,” Lander said.
Credit card companies currently use a four-digit MCC to classify businesses by the types of goods and services sold, with unique codes for grocery stores, sporting goods stores, bicycle shops, and many other retailers, but not for gun and ammunition stores.
According to Lander, proposals on this topic have been brought before the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), which is responsible for setting MCCs, however American Express, MasterCard, and Visa have not offered support for such regulations.
The three pension funds working alongside Lander have also filed shareholder proposals at American Express and Mastercard requesting transparency on the decisions made regarding MCCs for gun and ammunition stores.
Some 50 New York State legislators have issued letters to MasterCard and American Express calling for the creation and implementation of a code.
“As fiduciaries, we have a responsibility to minimize risks of harm that could negatively impact the companies in our portfolio,” Lander said, adding that “establishing [an MCC] to identify purchases from gun retailers could do just that, by helping to prevent gun crimes and saving lives.”
“Unfortunately, the credit card companies have failed to support this simple, practical, potentially lifesaving tool. The time has come for them to do so,” he said.
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