Conflicting State Laws Highlight Debate Over Gun Store Tracking Codes

Conflicting state laws regarding the use of gun store tracking codes have emerged as a new gun policy debate in the United States. California’s new law, effective Monday, requires credit card networks to provide special retail codes to track gun store sales. However, Georgia, Iowa, Tennessee, and Wyoming have passed laws banning the use of specific gun shop codes. Democratic lawmakers and gun-control activists argue that the tracking code can help identify suspicious gun-related purchases, potentially preventing mass shootings and other crimes. On the other hand, Republican lawmakers and gun-rights advocates express concerns about unwarranted suspicion of law-abiding gun buyers. The debate reflects the wider national divide on gun policy.

The International Organization for Standardization sets voluntary standards, including category codes for various businesses. Credit card networks distribute these codes to banks, which assign them to businesses. The new four-digit category code for gun and ammunition shops was adopted in 2022 but faced opposition from conservative politicians and the gun industry. The intent of the firearms store code is to identify suspicious patterns, such as sudden large purchases by individuals with little history of gun purchases. Banks can then alert authorities for further investigation. California’s law requires credit card networks to make the firearms code available to banks by Monday, with implementation by May 1. Colorado and New York have also passed similar mandates.

The use of the firearms store code has sparked concerns about privacy and potential federal government overreach. Some fear that the code could stigmatize gun owners or serve as an end run around the prohibition against a federal gun registry. Others worry that federal agents could access data about gun store purchases from financial institutions, leading to infringements on Second Amendment rights. The laws prohibiting gun store codes have varying effective dates and allow state attorneys general to seek court injunctions and impose fines on financial institutions using the codes.

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