Buy your guns with cash, firearms stores adding ATMs
Blowback to Visa, Mastercard, AmEx giving new merchandise category code to gun store purchases
Dan Eldridge, the owner of Maxon Shooter’s Supplies, used to have an ATM machine in his gun store. He took it out a few years ago when processing fees got too high. But then he got the news over the weekend that the major credit cards were going to start categorizing gun store sales separately.
“My first thought was, the ATM’s going back in,” Eldridge told me in an interview. “I called our old vendor and said, ‘We want this back in as soon as we can get it.’ It’s going back in the store in the next couple of weeks.”
Eldridge predicts a big change in how his customers make purchases.
Cash is king
“We were doing a couple thousand a month in cash with the old ATM. I anticipate we’ll do $10,00 to $15,000 a month now with the new ATM — due to this — because people don't want to be on a pseudo registry,” said Eldridge, whose store is in a Chicago suburb.
Visa announced it would start using the new Merchant Category Code for gun and ammunition stores after the International Organization for Standardization (IOS) announced it on Friday. Visa, Mastercard and American Express all now say they will categorize sales in firearms stores differently than “general merchandise.”
Eldridge is not the only licensed gun dealer changing his business strategy now.
“I’ve already heard reports of firearms retailers that plan on installing ATM machines in their stores for this purpose. This is a reminder that cash is king,” Mark Oliva, the managing director of public affairs for the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), the trade group for licensed gun dealers.
“Cash is a legal method to buy firearms and ammunition,” said Oliva. “It still requires the same background checks, but saves the buyer the inconvenience of knowing their credit card providers would be collecting information that could potentially be used to build back-door gun registries by unelected and international bureaucrats that are unaccountable to the voters.”
Credit card power
There will be some people who find not using a credit card a hurdle to buying guns and ammo, which are expensive.
“There is no doubt that using cash to buy firearms and ammunition helps to protect your privacy,” Alan Gottlieb, president of the Second Amendment Foundation, told me. “But this assault on the firearms industry will hurt sales as most people use credit cards to make purchases. That is what the gun prohibition is trying to do as well as create a database of all gun owners.”
Also, this new categorization could allow credit cards to deny unfairly. “It’s a gateway for credit card processors to deny gun sales — it certainly enables that kind of activity,” Eldridge said.
Gun control activist claim success
Credit card companies have been under pressure from politicians, pension funds and gun control activists who claim that tracking guns this way will prevent mass shootings.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) got two dozen Democrat members of Congress and senators to sign on to a letter to the CEO of the three big credit card companies on Sept. 2 to pressure them to make this change:
Financial institutions and payment networks, such as Visa, MasterCard, and American Express can and should do everything they can to help law enforcement prevent some mass shootings by identifying suspicious gun purchases through the implementation of this new code.
New York City Mayor Eric Adams said in a statement Saturday that the IOS “heeded our call to create a new merchant category code for firearms and ammunition sales.”
Hizzoner added: “This is a smart, commonsense measure that will track suspicious gun and ammunition sales — saving lives and making our city safer.”
Eldridge said there is no way for credit card companies tracking to identify potential crimes. He said a customer could buy an expensive gun safe from him and get tracked as suspicious in the new category. But the same person could buy guns at Cabela’s, for example, and the credit card would categorize it as “sporting goods.”
“There is no report you can run that would have any universal parameters as what is a flagable transaction. Did you buy 2,000 rounds of ammunition to do something nefarious or are you going to a shooting competition this weekend?” he said. “This is a push by anti-gun rights activists to further stigmatize gun owners.”
An NRA spokesman explained that the federal government is prohibited from creating a gun registry. This is why background checks in the NICS system are not kept in a database.
“This is not about tracking or prevention or any virtuous motivation – it’s about creating a national registry of gun owners,” NRA spokesman Lars Dalseide said. “With a few keystrokes, this new code creates a list of people who purchased firearms, ammunition and firearm-related accessories – that’s the very definition of a registry.”
On Tuesday, Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) wrote a letter to the CEOs of Visa, MasterCard, and American Express to ask them to reverse their decision:
This move has been described by multiple media outlets as “a major win for gun control advocates,” and they are not wrong.
Too often, companies have abused their market power to target the constitutional rights of conservatives and others with minority viewpoints.
Or, as gun store owner Eldridge says: “This is just one more datapoint showing the gun control people hate us, don’t understand lawful gun ownership and are more interested in scoring political wins than meaningful action against the criminal misuse of firearms.”
Will you use a credit card in a gun store now?