Battles Stealthily Being Fought

Sep 12, 2022

On Friday, another shot was fired - quietly- at the gun industry. The International Organization for Standardization (ISO), voted to create a “special code” for gun stores to use when processing credit and debit card transactions. Proponents of the move are quick to point out that other business categories already have these categories.

That may be true, but this isn’t being done as a simple business move. It’s a calculated move to circumvent regulations preventing federal tracking of gun sales.

As described by Priscilla Sims Brown, the president and CEO of Amalgamated Bank (the bank that requested the ISO category) in her statement of support, the new category will allow Amalgamated to “fully comply with our duty to report suspicious activity and illegal gun sales to authorities without blocking or impeding legal gun sales.”

She also said “we all have to do our part to prevent gun violence.”

A couple of important points spring to mind: 1) where are the definitions of “suspicious activities” on a credit card, and 2) if she has a “duty to report” those suspicious activities, to whom would that report be given?

(NOTE: A short sidebar on Amalgamated Bank…it already refuses to do any business with any firearms-related companies. It was begun by the labor unions and has historically been the bank that has served as the banker to liberal politicians and the groups supporting them.)

Moving targets - especially when tied to any form of government “reporting” makes nervous.

Especially if the idea of those reports are championed by Second Amendment opponents - like Amalgamated’s Brown or Senator Elizabeth Warren.

Warren has already indicated in her support, along with other politicians whose gun control schemes were overturned following the Supreme Court ruling that New York’s requiring the demonstration of a “specific need” being considered for a firearm permit was in violation of the Second Amendment.

After disappointments in the courts, the gun-control lobby has now shifted gears to an arena where there will be considerable less scrutiny or potential political repercussion- commerce.

Not everyone in banking and finance agrees with the creation of a specific Merchant Category Code for gun sales.

Visa and Master Card have opposed the move - for several years. On Friday, a senior Visa official, Robert B. Thomson III, sent Senator Warren and other lawmakers a letter opposing the move.

“We believe asking payment networks to serve as a moral authority by deciding which legal goods can or can not be purchased sets a dangerous precedent,” Thomson wrote, in addition to pointing out that Visa is not a member of ISO, and “does not have authority over ISO’s standards and processes.”

A Mastercard spokesman told the New York Times that company believed reducing gun violence should be “job of Congress.” He also noted the company would now turn its focus to how sellers and banks would put the new code into effect.

“This,” he said, “is exactly how we would manage the process for any other M.C.C. category.”

Ordinarily, this would be more than enough depression for a Monday morning, but as infomercials always say “Wait, there’s more…”

As if tracking buying habits wasn’t enough, new requirements going into place at United Parcel Service may significantly reduce visits by those ubiquitous brown trucks to residential addresses. Especially residences that might previously have purchased gun parts and/or ammunition-where legally permissible.

An August communication from UPS to “Valued UPS Customers” who “may ship firearms, firearm parts, and/or accessories with UPS” informed them of “updated” policies designed to adhere to nationwide regulations from the ATF.

To remain UPS customers, the communication states, companies will have to enter into a “written UPS Firearms Agreement for shipping firearms and firearms parts.”

They would additionally be required to:

  • provide a copy for their Federal Firearms License,
  • open a separate shipping account for shipping serialized firearms; and
  • open a separate shipping account for shipping firearms parts.

There are additional stipulations in UPS’s 2022 UPS Tariff/Terms & Conditions of Service and on their How to Ship Firearms web pages if you’re interested, but the intent’s clear enough to see.

As the “Valued UPS Customer” who provided us a copy of their letter observed, “this will basically shuts down the firearms industry and totally kill small gunsmithing shops.”

That warning was reinforced by his final note: “Our company attorney advises us not to sign this agreement as currently written.”

We’re also hearing that FedEx is working on similar “revisions” in their shipping requirements, but have no confirmation at this time. We’ve reached out, but no one in Memphis is talking- yet.

Anti-gun groups and their political supporters moving to pursue “non-legislative” ways to crack down on manufacturers, distributors, dealers and customers was further reinforced by a letter sent by Senators Edward Markey, Richard Blumenthal, Cory Booker, Christopher Murphy and Dianne Feinstein to senior officials at virtually all major domestic carriers.

“The letter” notifies the companies that they have until June 9, 2022 to provide “requested information” and answers to a plethora of questions.

The “requested” information includes: “policies and procedures regarding the transport and delivery of packages containing firearms.”

The questions include how a company defines “firearms” and asks a pointed question: whether “imitation firearms, frames, receivers, ammunition and silencers are included in those definitions.”

That’s a clear indication of their intended goal- restrictions or an outright ban on shipping anything related to a firearm - including things that are “imitation” firearms.

If you think that’s absurd, think again. Rules have to be considered at their extreme in order to spot potential problems after they’re passed.

We have copies of “the letter” sent to these companies:

  • ABF Freight Systems
  • Burlington Northern Santa Fe, LLC
  • Canadian National Railway Comp.
  • Canadian Pacific Railway, Limited
  • Crete Carrier Corp.
  • CRST The Transport Solution, Inc.
  • CSX Corporation
  • Daseke, Inc.
  • Estes Express Lines, Inc.
  • FedEx Corporation
  • J.B. Hunt Transport Services, Inc.
  • Knight-Swift Transportation Holdings, Inc.
  • Landstar Systems, Inc.
  • Norfolk Southern Corp.
  • Old Dominion Freight Line
  • Prime, Inc.
  • R+L Carriers, Inc.
  • Saia, Inc.
  • Schneider National, Inc.
  • Southeastern Freight Lines, Inc.
  • TFI International, Inc.
  • Union Pacific Corporation
  • United Parcel Service, Inc.
  • U.S. Xpress Enterprises, Inc.
  • The United States Postal Service
  • XPO Logistics, Inc.
  • Yellow Corp.

Franking privileges make sending letters affordable. The United States Senate return address gives those letters additional impact.

As always, we’ll keep you posted.

—Jim Shepherd