Amalgamated Bank

In what has to be one of the most creative approaches to naming, shaming, and bankrupting firearms related businesses, the labor union affiliated Amalgamated Bank attempted to deputize the international community into creating a database of all gun companies, by creating a new credit card merchant classification code.[1]

“The new classification was first proposed in 2021 by Amalgamated Bank, a 100-year-old U.S. bank that seeks to be a socially responsible financial-services provider. In a statement, Amalgamated’s CEO, Priscilla Sims Brown, said that it was unfortunate that ‘an important measure to help law enforcement deter criminal activity and gun violence has been placed on hold,’ but that just as the ISO took a few months to come around to the value of the code, she’s confident ‘the industry will implement this commonsense way to keep our communities safe.”

The proposal would have used the normally technical and apolitical standards setting process to cut off gun sales. [2]

“The ISO is a Geneva-based non-governmental organization that consists of a network of ‘standards bodies’ from around the globe that create consensus across various countries and industries. MCCs are used by payment processors (like Visa and Mastercard) and other financial services companies to categorize transactions. MCCs enable payment processors and banks to identify, monitor, and collect data on certain types of transactions. Before the ISO decision, firearm retailers fell under the MCC for sporting goods stores or miscellaneous retail.”

But this new database was a step too far for even liberals in the consumer credit business.[3]

“On March 9, the major U.S. credit card companies, Visa, Mastercard, and American Express, announced that they were not going ahead with implementing a new code that identifies purchases from gun stores as different from purchases from big-box or other outdoor stores. The code, approved in September 2022 by the International Organization of Standardization (ISO), which regulates the international protocols by which credit companies abide, has been the subject of intense criticism from Republican lawmakers.”

Ultimately creating an international blacklist of firearms retailers was a bridge too far for American credit card processors and the Amalgamated proposal was shelved by American card processors.