Firearms purchased in the US using credit cards set to be trackable with introduction of merchant codes

While the measure has been lauded by some politicians, it isn’t clear how the process will work

Credit card purchases of firearms in the US can now be tracked and purchases deemed suspicious can even be shared with law enforcement, according to a new measure approved by an organisation that sets parameters for business transactions.

The International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) voted in favour of creating a merchant code for firearms stores, according to Reuters.

Merchant codes are four-digit codes that categorise retailers across all industries; until now, gun purchases had been classified under “miscellaneous retail stores” or “sporting goods stores”.

While the measure has been lauded by politicians such as Massachusetts senators Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey among others, it isn’t clear how this process will work.


Numerous top level credit card companies such as PayPal, Stripe and Square don’t allow gun purchases. For the credit companies that do allow the purchases, the total cost can be extra high due to interests.

As a result, many gun buyers often use cash for their purchases; potential buyers are often seen asking in online forums whether it’s better to buy guns with cash or credits, with many voting for cash.

Meanwhile, fintech companies such as Credova, built for the purpose of allowing installment plans for outdoor recreation and sporting good purchases, including guns, appear to downplay their role when asked about the financing of gun purchases.

Credova “plays a very small role in the legal firearm purchase ecosystem by representing less than one-tenth of 1 percent of financing firearm purchases,” Elizabeth Locke, a lawyer retained by Credova, said in a statement.

“Most gun purchases are made with credit cards,” Ms. Locke said. She added that it would be misleading to describe Credova as focused on gun buyers.

John Feinblatt, president of Everytown for Gun Safety, welcomed ISO’s decision, which was announced on Friday, and said it’s now crucial for this to be implemented thoroughly.

“Today’s announcement is a critical first step towards giving banks and credit card companies the tools they need to recognise dangerous firearm purchasing trends – like a domestic extremist building up an arsenal – and report them to law enforcement,” he said in a statement shared with the Guardian.

Amalgamated Bank, which brands itself as a “socially responsible bank” had requested the codes to the ISO.

On Friday, they celebrated their victory, thanking their partners, including New York governor Kathy Hochul and New York attorney general Tish James.

Priscilla Sims Brown, president and CEO of the bank, said in a statement that the code will open the path for banks to report suspicious or illegal gun sale activity in a way that will not interfere with legal gun sales.

“This action answers the call of millions of Americans who want safety from gun violence and we are proud to have led the broad coalition of advocates, shareholders, and elected officials that achieved this historic outcome,” she added.

The tracking and blocking of illegal gun sales has already made headway with FBI background checks, according to Everytown.

In 2020, the FBI background checks led to blocking more than 300,000 illegal gun purchases, nearly double the number of 2019.

The same year, gun purchases skyrocketed as people were stuck indoors during the first wave of the pandemic; records show there were 20 million legal purchases in 2020, up from 12.4 million the year before.

In a statement, the Alliance for Gun Responsibility said: “We are glad to see the financial industry take action to recognise that it has a role to play in helping keep our communities safe. Passing stronger gun laws is essential, but it is just one piece of the puzzle when it comes to addressing the gun violence epidemic.”

*This article was amended on September 20th 2022 to add a comment from lawyers for Credova and to clarify that the Uvalde gunman did not purchase his gun through Credova’s platform or with its services. – Guardian