Card Companies Now Target California Gun Purchases

dean bertoncelj /
dean bertoncelj /

For years now, people have been concerned about card companies tracking their spending habits, especially when it comes to firearms. Now, thanks to a new law in California, it’s coming to fruition. Instituted via a merchant code for firearm and ammunition retailers, banks will be able to track what they deem to be suspicious gun purchases.

While merchants have unique codes for the types of goods and services they offer, it allows card companies to watch for purchase patterns. It’s also why you get a “fraud” warning when you stop by that liberal book shop to get your teen niece that limited printing book; they know the merchant isn’t your usual kind of place to stop. Right now, firearms and ammunition fall under various levels of generic retailers, most often sporting goods.

Mastercard, Visa, and American Express all jumped on board when the law was first announced but have started realizing the error of their ways. Especially when so many Second Amendment-loving Americans gave them tons of blowback about infringing on their legal rights as gun owners. Companies say that all they would see is the code of the store a purchase was made at, but not what was purchased or details about the customer.

Activists behind the initiative claim that the same shopping pattern detection that triggers alerts for fraud or funding terrorism could stop gun crime. Using identifying problem purchase patterns, they claim they could raise the red flag and serve as a big deterrent to gun crime, specifically mass shootings.

Currently, the California law is slated to go into effect in May 2025 for companies that primarily deal in firearms or ammunition. Credit card companies admit they are finding themselves troubled with the law. Visa senior vice president Robert B. Thomson III wrote, “With respect to the [firearm merchant code], there continues to be a tremendous amount of regulatory and legislative uncertainty. Given the conflicting state laws on this topic and the likelihood that other states will enact legislation to either restrict or mandate the code, our implementation pause remains in effect.”

Anyone stuck making a gun purchase in Commiefornia at that point still has one reprieve easily available: pay in cash. God knows it doesn’t come with the strings card companies will have, and your gun store will likely appreciate being able to duck those merchant fees.