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Will Credit Cards Play a Role in Gun Control?

After Florida’s third mass shooting in two years took place at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland on February 14, 2018 many are seeking answers on how to prevent another act of violence. One possible method of gun control and reform could be removing credit cards as a payment option for gun dealers.

Can points and mile earning credit cards play a part in the gun control debate? An editorial published by The New York Times suggests by removing credit and debit cards as a payment option for guns, it could reduce the number of weapons available for public distribution.

Writing for the Dealbook column, Andrew Ross Sorkin notes that credit cards have taken a stand on prohibiting other purchases that skirt program rules, such as purchasing coins from the U.S. Mint or investing in cryptocurrencies. In addition, payment platforms including Apple Pay, PayPal and Square all have policies against using their products to purchase guns.

“What if the finance industry — credit card companies like Visa, Mastercard and American Express; credit card processors like First Data; and banks like JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo — were to effectively set new rules for the sales of guns in America?” Sorkin writes. “Collectively, they have more leverage over the gun industry than any lawmaker. And it wouldn’t be hard for them to take a stand.”

What would stop credit card networks and issuers from doing this? Two major hurdles include cutting into a bank’s bottom line along with the risks it could bring to their companies.

First, both Visa and MasterCard have agreements to issue cobranded credit cards for the National Rifle Association and outdoors store chain Cabela’s, which sells guns. Visa issues the N.R.A. card, while MasterCard offers a points-earning card for Cabela’s. Removing those relationships could alienate hundreds of cardholders and create issues for those accounts.

The second is a risk not only to profits, but also safety. Executives who spoke with Sorkin noted that while a boycott from N.R.A. members could hurt their overall numbers, the threat to employee safety is also worth noting.

In the last decade, at least two mass shootings have occurred in United States airports. In 2013, a shooter entered Terminal 3 at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), killing a Transportation Security Administration agent and wounding three others. In 2017, a shooter killed five people and wounded eight others at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL).

[Photo: Shutterstock]

Comments are Closed.
Skydaver March 1, 2018

Please keep Flyer Talk columns related to things about ... flying. This is under the security topic, but has absolutely NOTHING to do with airport/airline security.

JeffCarlin March 1, 2018

What in the world does this have to do with FlyerTalk? Is there no place where I can hide from political discussion?

GrayAnderson March 1, 2018

It's funny... from what I recall, it was actually the mint, not the credit card companies, that took a stand on the dollar coin issue. The article you linked indicates that it was the mint cutting it off. After all, the mint was paying fees... Visa and MasterCard would likely have been happy to just take the money and run until the end of time on their end. As to the cryptocurrency situation, are plenty of suspects for what precisely happened. If we are being honest, I cannot imagine that Visa or MasterCard really cared about folks "skirting the rules" and piling up miles as long as they were collecting their fees. A more likely culprit was the changing regulatory situation surrounding cryptocurrencies or a desire to pocket more fees, not some vague desire to "take a stand". I'd also like to point out that if any of the big three credit card issuers decided to take this stand, they would arguably be opening themselves up to a shareholder lawsuit. Turning away billions of dollars in purchases per year ( presuming we're talking about both guns and ammunition, $1 billion feels low) would equate to tens of millions of dollars worth of interchange fees, and given the oligopolistic nature of the business and how far they are removed from the actual transactions, it's hard to argue that they would be heading off or responding to a plausible boycott at this point. As to debit cards, I'm not sure what legal precedent exists for banks being able to refuse to honor an otherwise legal transaction... That is quite a possible hornets nest for any bank to get into. By the way, I find it rather amusing that the article you linked mentioning earning points by buying cryptocurrencies is dated about two weeks after the Coinbase fiasco. Real timely article, guys.

oh912flyer March 1, 2018

I am disgusted that flyer talk believes this article is fir for its publication. I assume now that you'll be leading the effort to disarm pilots and airmarshalls on all flights...

rgnadon March 1, 2018

Fine if credit card companies do that, they are only hurting themselves. As an added benefit of using cash, the government can't trace your purchases.