New York City officials urge credit card companies to track gun and ammo sales, flag 'suspicious' sales

New York officials argued the merchant codes could help reduce gun violence

Some New York City officials want major credit card companies to create a unique code for firearm and ammunition purchases that could then be used to monitor "suspicious" purchases.

During a press conference Tuesday, Mayor Eric Adams called on American Express, MasterCard and Visa — the largest credit card companies in the U.S. — to establish a merchant category code (MCC) for gun-related items and to report bulk purchases.

"Why can't we have this code when you purchase guns? This is a real issue [as] 316 people a day are shot by guns in our country, [and] 106 die from guns. When you think about these numbers, these are astronomical numbers," said Adams, who was introduced by City Comptroller Brad Lander as "a forthright champion for action to reduce gun violence."

New York City Mayor Eric Adams at a press conference

New York City Mayor Eric Adams, New York State Attorney General Letitia James, and state lawmakers at a press conference about reducing gun violence on August 30, 2022. (New York City Government / Fox News)

"We are not leaving any stone unturned. Everyone must play a role," the mayor added.


Adams was joined at the presser by New York State Attorney General Letitia James, the New York City Employees’ Retirement System, Teachers’ Retirement System and Board of Education Retirement System and some state lawmakers.

The New York City government released a statement after the press conference that said the code would flag and report "suspicious activity."

"The creation of a new code would help financial institutions detect and report suspicious activity, such as unusually large purchases of firearms or ammunition, or purchases from multiple stores, that may be used for criminal purposes," the statement read.

Guns seized by the government are on display

"Ghost guns" seized in federal law enforcement. (Robyn Beck / AFP / Getty Images)

During the press conference, Adams praised city officials and lawmakers like New York State Senator Zellnor Myrie and New York State Assemblymember Chantel Jackson, who have acted to reduce gun violence.


He also pointed out that MCC’s are already in place for some items.

"When it comes to guns falling into the wrong hands, we must find upstream solutions before we’re faced with downstream consequences — because downstream consequences are lost lives," Adams said. "When you buy an airline ticket or pay for your groceries, your credit card company has a special code for those retailers. It’s just commonsense that we have the same policies in place for gun and ammunition stores. I’m proud to join Comptroller Lander and our partners at the state level to call for this important policy change."

The city elaborated further: "Unique merchant category codes exist for grocery stores, sporting goods stores, bicycle shops, and many other retailers — but not for gun and ammunition stores. Proposals have been brought before the ISO to create a merchant category code for gun retailers, but American Express, MasterCard, and Visa have not supported the proposal."


Addressing critics, the mayor said, "you don't have to agree on everything to agree on the fact that we have to be safe."

Adams’ urgency to reduce gun violence was echoed by Comptroller Lander and the attorney general.

"Gun violence continues to ravage our nation and communities across our city," Lander said. "As fiduciaries, we have a responsibility to minimize risks of harm that could negatively impact the companies in our portfolio."

Someone holding a handgun

Props expert Guillaume Delouche at Independent Studio Services holds a gun. (DAVID MCNEW/AFP via Getty Images / Getty Images)

He argued: "Establishing a merchant category code to identify purchases from gun retailers could do just that, by helping to prevent gun crimes and saving lives."

"We must fight for public safety through every tool at our disposal: reducing the flow of guns into our communities, working with police to take on crime, and demanding that businesses do their part," Attorney General James said. "Communities could stop paying the price for gun violence if credit card companies did their part to categorize gun purchases and flag suspicious activity to law enforcement agencies."


The press conference comes ahead of a meeting this fall by the International Organization on Standardization, which sets merchant codes.