Banks and credit card companies are reportedly taking part in discussions focused on finding methods for identifying gun purchases made through payment systems. The move would be highly controversial, particularly to gun-rights activities who disapprove of actions that track gun ownership as well as based on federal laws that limit the use of gun sale databases by the government.
While the talks are preliminary, they have the potential to lead to substantial changes.
According to a report by Market Watch, some people have claimed that financial institutions are exploring the idea of creating a new code for credit cards related to firearms dealers, similar to the codes used to identify department stores and restaurants.
By creating a code, banks and credit card companies could restrict purchases made at specific retailers or, at a minimum, determine which cards are used to in those establishments.
Another idea expressed by the financial institutions involved requiring retailers to share purchase data related to consumers buying firearms.
Much of the discussions were spurred by the tragedy in Parkland, Florida, where 17 people were killed when a gunman opened fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
The incident has seen banks and credit card companies under increased pressure from both sides of the gun debate.
Sen. Mike Crapo, the Chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, sent letters to Bank of America and Citigroup Inc. last week criticizing the companies for enforcing new policies aimed at gun-industry clients and for no longer doing business with certain gun-related companies.
During the week prior, the American Federation of Teachers stated that it would cut ties with Wells Fargo based on what was considered the bank’s failure to openly discuss the financial institution’s relationship with the National Rifle Association and gunmakers with the union.
Those against the use of consumer data in such a manner often cite privacy concerns.
“There’s a privacy angle here,” said Georgetown University law professor Adam Levitin, according to a report by Morningstar. “There’s a slippery slope danger if it’s guns today maybe it is pornography tomorrow and the day after it’s right-wing literature.
Gun-control advocates state that banks already track transactions as a means of mitigating risk and preventing illegal activity.
“Knowing where the customers are shopping isn’t a slippery slope to anything, it’s just one data point,” said Everytown for Gun Safety director of criminal justice policy and enforcement Nicholas Suplina. “I don’t think anybody’s asking financial institutions to determine whether a transaction is good or bad, but it may very well be a good idea for them to understand the risks inherent in firearm sales.”