Gun controllers have become increasingly frustrated that their federal agenda has been repeatedly rejected by Americans through their elected representatives, leading them to seek to circumvent the legislative process and restrict gun rights by way of the private financial system. Their goal is to pressure financial services companies into either not doing business with the firearms industry and gun owners, or to comprehensively surveille their lawful activity.
This should be chilling to anyone who cherishes their privacy, not just law-abiding gun owners.
On December 24, the gun confiscation supporters at the New York Times ran a thinly-veiled advocacy piece by Andrew Ross Sorkin in the news section, titled, “Devastating Arsenals, Bought With Plastic and Nary a Red Flag.” The piece outlined how some of the perpetrators of high-profile mass murders had purchased firearms and ammunition in the same manner that many ordinary law-abiding Americans do; with credit cards.
The online edition of the piece carried the headline “How Banks Unwittingly Finance Mass Shootings,” suggesting that financial services companies were somehow complicit in violence by facilitating the exchange of lawful goods that were ultimately used for criminal purposes.
According to the misbranded op-ed, banks and other financial services companies are “uniquely positioned” to monitor gun owner purchasing habits. Under Sorkin’s preferred scenario, credit card companies would require retailers to tag firearms-related purchases with additional data that could be used by the credit card companies to compile information on gun owners. The surveillance data could then be used to flag suspicious purchases for law enforcement.
Moreover, the piece suggests that this data collection could be used to restrict certain types of lawful firearms transactions outright. Sorkin suggested,
Walmart and Dick’s Sporting Goods this year announced that they would not sell firearms to anyone under 21. If banks chose to use the systems they already have in place, they might decide to monitor such customers, perhaps preventing them from buying multiple guns in a short period of time.
To their credit, when asked for comment by the Times’s advocate, the major financial transaction firms expressed a reluctance to violate the privacy of their law-abiding customers. A Visa spokesperson explained, “We do not believe Visa should be in the position of setting restrictions on the sale of lawful goods or services… Asking Visa or other payment networks to arbitrate what legal goods can be purchased sets a dangerous precedent.” A Mastercard spokesperson added that the transaction company values the privacy of their customers’ “own purchasing decisions.”