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Florida gun sales may be off-limits to future credit card trackers

close-up photo of men holding a gun in a store
Gun rights advocates worry a separate merchant code would be a means of tracking gun owners.

A proposal to ban merchant codes for gun and ammunition sales in Florida is ready for the full House. It’s already been approved by the Senate, largely along party lines.

Credit-card companies use four-digit codes to collect data on purchases at businesses such as restaurants, department stores, and gas stations. Credit card giants Visa, Mastercard, and American Express announced last year they were planning to add what’s known as a merchant category code for stores that sell firearms.

The plan has gotten major pushback in Republican-led states over privacy rights and the right to bear arms.

Those who oppose the bill say a merchant code would enable suspicious transactions to be flagged, possibly thwarting a mass shooting.

“Does this impact any investigations into a crime?” In the House Commerce Committee, Rep. Allison Tant, D-Tallahassee, noted how one of America’s deadliest acts of terrorism 28 years ago was solved.

“What I’m concerned about is I remember when the Oklahoma bombing took place, they were able to track and find that the bomber had purchased items that were used in the bombing," Tant said. "So that’s the reason I’m asking the question.”

“No ma’am, this bill has no bearing on law enforcement’s ability to subpoena records or carry out an investigation,” replied the bill's sponsor, Rep. John Snyder, R-Palm City.

The legislation was filed in part because gun rights advocates worry such a code is really just a means of keeping track of people who own guns, but his bill may not be necessary.

After the outcry, the credit card companies announced last month they have halted their plans for a gun store code.

Gina Jordan is the host of Morning Edition for WFSU News. Gina is a Tallahassee native and graduate of Florida State University. She spent 15 years working in news/talk and country radio in Orlando before becoming a reporter and All Things Considered host for WFSU in 2008. Follow Gina: @hearyourthought on Twitter. Click below for Gina's full bio.