The West Virginia legislature last week passed a bill that would throw up a roadblock to prevent credit card companies from using a special category to track gun purchases, the first sally in what is likely to become a protracted political battle between the left-wing bank that spearheaded the initiative and Republican lawmakers across the country.
The move by the West Virginia state legislature follows expressions of concern at the state and federal level over the creation – at the behest of Amalgamated bank, the left-wing financial institution that services Democratic campaigns across the country – of a special designation, known as a merchant category code, for purchases made at gun stores.
It’s another indication that Amalgamated has dragged the credit card industry into what could be a protracted political battle: The bill’s passage follows on the heels of a letter from 24 Republican attorneys general sent a letter to credit card companies in September warning them against any effort to track or monitor gun sales.
Gun purchases were previously categorized as sporting goods, but Amalgamated last year led a successful campaign to create the new category, alongside existing categories for goods like groceries, airlines, and transportation.
It did so in the face of opposition from credit card giants like Visa and American Express, which are now required to use the new code, given that the merchant codes are universal across companies and across the globe.
While the new code gives credit card companies awareness of the amount of spending at a store, the payment companies have no insight into what individuals purchased. This limitation contradicts the claims of progressive advocates—and some conservative critics—that credit card companies now have the ability to track individual firearm purchases.
"Categorizing the constitutionally protected right to purchase firearms unfairly singles out law-abiding merchants and consumers alike," the letter from the 24 GOP attorneys general said. "Social policy should be debated and determined within our political institutions. Americans are tired of seeing corporate leverage used to advance political goals that cannot muster basic democratic support."