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A look at proposed US state laws to curb new gun merchant code

Republican-backed bills introduced in legislatures in several U.S. states target the use of a planned merchant code for credit card transactions at gun retailers that is intended to detect suspicious firearms and ammunition sales.

Major credit and debit card companies have committed to using the “merchant category code” for gun sellers, a development welcomed by gun control advocates who call it an important new tool for investigating suspicious purchases. Critics have said the code could be used to improperly track legal purchases of guns and ammunition.

Here is a look at bills in five states.

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A bill introduced in Florida is meant to prohibit banks and other companies in the payment-settlement process from assigning the code “separately from general merchandise or sporting goods retailers.” It is slated for a hearing on Monday before the state Senate Committee on Commerce and Tourism.

Under a bill introduced in Mississippi, a financial institution or its agent “may not require the usage of or assign” a payment code to a firearms merchant separately from general merchandise retailers or sporting goods retailers. The bill passed the state House of Representatives on Feb. 9 and is under consideration in the state Senate.

Bills in these states have similar language including that financial institutions may not decline “lawful payment card transactions” based on the assignment of a firearms code, and may not charge merchants higher transaction or interchange fees based on the codes. West Virginia’s bill was passed by the state House of Delegates on Feb. 3 and awaits further action in the state Senate. Oklahoma’s bill was introduced on Jan. 18. The Texas bill was introduced on Feb. 24.

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