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Red States Move to Block Code That Will Track Gun Buys

Republicans in several states are pushing legislation that would limit credit card companies' use of a merchant code to enable better tracking of purchases at gun retailers, Reuters reports. Bills introduced in states including Texas, Florida, Mississippi, Oklahoma, West Virginia and Wyoming come one month before the planned merchant category code for gun sellers, approved last fall by the International Organization for Standardization, begins to roll out in the U.S. The major credit and debit card companies have committed to using the code. Discover Financial Services has said it will introduce it in April and that it is following other companies in doing so. Discover is the first company to publicly state a timetable.

The state proposals mark the latest flashpoint for U.S. Republicans in their attack on the growing corporate consideration of environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors — what some conservatives deride as "woke capitalism." The Republican state lawmakers sponsoring the bills have said they want to prevent the code from being used to infringe upon Second Amendment rights. Jansen Owen, a state representative who is the author of legislation in Mississippi, said that as a conservative he worries that the code among other things could be used to track lawful ammunition purchases. "I don't want card companies to raise interest rates or fees on merchants as a way to dissuade them" from selling guns and ammunition, Owen told Reuters. "This MCC would lead to the creation of a backdoor registry" of gun purchases in violation of state law in Florida, state Senator Danny Burgess told a February hearing on legislation he has authored. Proponents of the code have said it will enable financial institutions to better assist law enforcement authorities in investigating crimes involving gun violence. Adam Skaggs, chief counsel for the gun safety group Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, expressed opposition to the Republican proposals. "The only thing they're protecting is the rights of criminal gun purchasers," Skaggs said of the legislation. Skaggs also said the legislation could lead to unpredictable consequences like driving gun retailers to become cash-only businesses.


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