NYT Reporters Advocate Tracking Gun Purchases Made With Credit Cards

Mario Tama/Getty Images

Amber Athey Podcast Columnist
Font Size:

The New York Times published an article on Monday suggesting that credit card companies surveil cardholders who purchase firearms.

The NYT piece, authored by Andrew Ross Sorkin, noted that a number of mass shooters purchased their weapons and ammo using credit cards. Banks are required to alert federal authorities to purchases exceeding $10,000, but there are rules preventing them from seeing precisely what goods users are purchasing.

Nonetheless, NYT’s Sorkin suggests that banks track purchases at sporting goods stores and gun shops and prevent cardholders from purchasing multiple firearms “in a short period of time” and report unusual spending patterns.

Nick Confessore, another NYT reporter, insinuated that banks and credit card companies have some responsibility for mass shootings because they “financed” them.

“Banks already have to report suspicious transactions; it would be easy to also report aberrant gun purchases by a possible mass shooter,” Joe Nocera, a Bloomberg Opinion writer.

Sorkin expressed little concern about the privacy of consumers, instead leaving that to the credit card companies and banks he spoke to for the article.

“We do not believe Visa should be in the position of setting restrictions on the sale of lawful goods or services,” Amanda Pires, a Visa spokeswoman, told NYT. “Our role in commerce is to efficiently process, protect and settle all legal payments. Asking Visa or other payment networks to arbitrate what legal goods can be purchased sets a dangerous precedent.”

MasterCard similarly touted the “privacy of [cardholders’] purchasing decisions.”

The article does not confront the possibility that tracking credit card purchases could backfire by encouraging would-be mass shooters to use cash — thereby making their purchases even more discrete.

There are also no suggestions as to what constitutes an “abnormal” gun purchase, such as how many guns, how much ammo, what cost, or what frequency.

Sorkin brushed off some of the criticisms of his article on Twitter, insisting that tracking purchases is about “saving kids” and not infringing on the ability of law-abiding citizens to purchase firearms.

Some banks and credit card companies have already implemented policies that make it more difficult for customers to purchase firearms. (RELATED: Bank of America Sponsors Gun-Control Panel)

In June, Intuit abruptly stopped processing some transactions related to firearms, including a safety training class and gun-related clothing and coffee mugs. Intuit claimed the transactions violated its “face-to-face” policy for gun purchases, despite the fact that many of the guns purchased were sent to federally-licensed firearms dealers for customers to pick up after they completed a background check.

 Follow Amber on Twitter