Visa Inc. and Mastercard Inc. have decided to pause the implementation of a plan aimed at tracking firearm sales and curbing gun violence, according to a Bloomberg report.
The payments giants, along with Discover Financial Services, have delayed the work after a series of bills in state legislatures targeted the International Organization for Standardization’s new merchant category code (MCC), created to be used when processing transactions for gun and ammunition stores.
“There are bills advancing in several states related to the use of this new code,” a Mastercard spokesperson said in a statement on Thursday. “It’s for that reason that we have decided to pause work on the implementation of the firearms-specific MCC.”
Visa also took a pause because of the “significant confusion and legal uncertainty” created by legislative proposals, according to a spokesperson.
The MCC would apply to all purchases at gun and ammunition stores, but firearm purchases at other types of retailers would not be captured.
Visa and Mastercard have previously said the new system might not have had the impact that gun-control advocates had hoped.
That’s because it wouldn’t offer the level of detail needed to show what customers were actually buying, making no distinction between, say, automatic rifles and safety equipment.
Many politicians and Second Amendment advocates decried the proposed code as an intrusion on constitutional rights and privacy.
“MCCs are one data point that would not provide any insight on specific purchases or resolve larger issues,” the Mastercard spokesperson said.
“We are committed to working with policymakers and elected officials to contribute to constructive solutions that address the gun violence issue, while respecting important constitutional rights and protections for lawful activities.”
The companies’ previous decision to implement the code drew almost immediate criticism from politicians.
In September, two dozen state attorneys general sent a letter to Visa’s then-chief executive officer, Al Kelly, and Mastercard CEO Michael Miebach, calling on them to “take immediate action to comport with our consumer protection laws and respect the constitutional rights of all Americans.”
Since then, several Republican politicians have filed bills in states including Mississippi and Florida seeking to restrict the code by banning banks and payment processors from using it.
Earlier this year, a bill that would “prevent the use of payment card processing systems for surveillance of Second Amendment activity and discriminatory conduct” passed West Virginia’s House and was sent to the state’s Senate.
Discover Financial Services also removed the MCC “to continue alignment and interoperability with the industry,” according to a statement.
Republican Senator Bill Hagerty (R) weighed in on the matter in a Thursday Twitter post, writing, “Well done, it’s about time. US companies should not be taking orders from international NGOs to target legal industries.”
“This politicization of our financial sector must stop,” the Tennessee senator concluded.