Visa and Amex are about to determine where to buy your guns. Republicans are confused.

With just over six weeks to go before the midterm elections, GOP officials are using gun store sales data as an example of what they call “awakened capitalism” and are opening a new front in the battle over the role of corporations. should play in social policy management.

“Progressives are already cheering that this will be a huge step forward in monitoring suspicious gun purchases,” said Rep. Roger Williams (R-Texas) said in a House hearing Wednesday. “Anyone who opposes the rights of gun owners wants to [financial] settings to mark each transaction with a gun [code] to law enforcement.”

State officials are also involved.

Environmental, social and governance or ESG policies are “armed in a way that deeply concerns me,” said Florida Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, a Republican seeking reelection. Earlier this week, Patronis threatened credit card companies with the specter of GOP-led legislation targeting their operations if the code is found to have “a chilling effect” on firearms purchases.

“I see it going as far as we need. [Even] if we have to deport a financial institution that does business in the state of Florida because of their damage or irreparable harm they are doing to some of these companies,” he said in an interview.

Earlier this month, Amalgamated Bank — a union-owned institution that has become a go-to bank for Democratic campaigns — successfully petitioned an international standards body to adopt the new gun store trade code. Credit card companies had resisted those efforts for years, but after the International Organization for Standardization signed it, the companies said they had to comply.

Leaders from both parties have become increasingly aggressive in using their power – and their financial resources – to persuade companies to adopt practices that align with their respective ideologies. They often clash.

For every blue state pension fund that moves forward with climate-conscious investment initiatives, Republican leaders in states like West Virginia will cut public contracts with major banks that will no longer fund coal.

Credit card companies and commercial banks are now in the midst of a similar dynamic when it comes to purchases in gun stores. The companies are not happy about that.

“We do not believe that private companies should serve as moral arbiters,” Visa said in a company blog published in response to the ISO’s decision. “A fundamental principle for Visa is to protect all legal commerce across our network and around the world and to uphold the privacy of cardholders who choose to use Visa. That has always been our commitment, and it will not change with ISO’s decision.”

American Express and Mastercard have made similar points. Hundreds of other types of retailers, including florists and mobile home dealers, already have their own dedicated codes.

But the code only gives financial institutions insight into where a purchase was made — not the items that were purchased. It does not preclude legal purchases of firearms, nor will it be the sole reason for blocking individual transactions.

The code provides financial institutions with a new tool to identify suspicious consumer transactions in gun stores as sellers’ categories appear on buyers’ credit card statements.

The CEOs of America’s largest commercial banks, which ultimately handle those payments, reiterated the credit card companies’ points during congressional hearings on Wednesday and Thursday.

“We cannot be involved in telling American citizens how their money will be used. That’s not our job,” Jamie Dimon, CEO of JPMorgan Chase, told the Senate Banking Committee on Thursday.

Republican policymakers claim the new code has politicized payment systems to the detriment of gun owners.

Two dozen Republican attorneys general have already threatened card companies with legal action over the new code. GOP lawmakers on the House Financial Services and Senate Banking committees this week sent letters to Amalgamated Bank, the Treasury Department and the Bank Policy Institute — a lobbying group for major lenders — also expressing their dismay.

“Please resist the impulse to respond to the very loud noise in your left ears,” Sen. Kevin Cramer (RN.D.) told bank CEOs at Thursday’s hearing. “I’m glad I’m the loud noise in your right ear.”

For Democrats and advocates lobbying for gun regulations, those protests ignore a gun violence epidemic that kills tens of thousands of Americans each year. That’s why public pension leaders in New York City and California launched shareholder proposals earlier this year to force the credit conglomerates to back proposals to create a separate category for arms-trading transactions.

“There’s been a trade code for florists for a long time, but I don’t see any objection from the Republican attorneys general” [to that]New York City Supervisor Brad Lander, a Democrat who oversees the city’s pension system, said in an interview earlier this week. “I don’t think they get big contributions from the florists.”

Having that code will create new ways for financial institutions to detect suspicious activity — something they are already required to do — and could thwart domestic terrorism and mass shootings, said Nick Suplina, senior vice president for law and policy. at Everytown for Gun Safety, a group founded and funded by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Attempts to implement the code came after a series of reports from The New York Times revealed that the attackers behind the attacks on Virginia Tech and Pulse Nightclub, among others, had used credit cards to stockpile large stockpiles of guns and ammunition in the run-up to those massive attacks. shootings.

“It’s not just a question for policymakers and lawmakers to get involved,” said Adam Skaggs, chief adviser and policy director at Gifford’s Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. “Business leaders, like everyone else, have a role to play.”

That line of thinking ignores federal and state policymakers ultimately held accountable by voters, said Tennessee Attorney General Jonathan Skrmetti, a state Supreme Court appointee who headed the attorney’s letter. general of the GOP.

“My concern is that as boardrooms get more involved in politics, politics will get more involved in boardrooms,” Skrmetti said. “We’re moving in a direction where everything gets political — and that’s bad.”

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