Discover Card is set to become the first credit card issuer that will track gun purchases.
Tracking of the 57 million Discover cards in circulation is set to begin in April.
The National Rifle Association, which is opposing the tracking, explained in a statement that Discover intends to “implement a new merchant category code (MCC) created to track purchases at gun stores with the express purpose of monitoring and reporting to authorities any activity the company considers ‘suspicious.'”
The credit card company has not explained what will constitute a “suspicious” purchase or if they will alert customers that they have flagged.
“We remain focused on continuing to protect and support lawful purchases on our network while protecting the privacy of cardholders,” Discover said in a statement to Reuters in February.
The NRA explained, “use of the MCC can only inform a credit card company that a certain amount of money was spent at what is considered a firearm retailer. It cannot be used to track what was actually bought, much less determine why the purchase was made. Thus, the program inherently poses a risk to consumers of needlessly intrusive and harassing consequences for completely lawful and innocent conduct.”
The new merchant code for gun shops was created after a campaign by anti-gun activists.
Activists with Guns Down America and Giffords Law Center had worked with Amalgamated Bank to have a new merchant code created. In September 2022, the bank announced that its petition to the International Standards Organization for a new merchant category code (MCC) for gun and ammunition stores was approved.
“We all have to do our part to stop gun violence,” said Priscilla Sims Brown, President and CEO of Amalgamated Bank, in a statement at the time. “And it sometimes starts with illegal purchases of guns and ammunition. The new code will allow us to fully comply with our duty to report suspicious activity and illegal gun sales to authorities without blocking or impeding legal gun sales. This action answers the call of millions of Americans who want safety from gun violence and we are proud to have led the broad coalition of advocates, shareholders, and elected officials that achieved this historic outcome.”
The NRA has condemned the move, saying it is infringing on customer’s privacy and constitutionally-protected rights.
“While gun owners may be able in the short term to modify their purchasing practices, or avoid companies like Discover that infringe on their privacy and rights, they shouldn’t have to fear scrutiny or harassment for their lawful – and especially their constitutionally-protected – purchases,” the organization said in a statement. “The NRA will continue to update this story and to work with its allies in industry and legislatures to protect firearm-related commerce from suppression by activists in and outside of government.”