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Credit card firearm purchase codes prevention heads to Tennessee governor

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(The Center Square) – A bill designed to prevent credit card companies and banks from using a separate code to designate sales at firearms retailers is now headed to Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee.

The Tennessee Senate concurred on a drafting error fix from the House on Senate Bill 2223, which prevents banks and credit card companies from requiring those retailers to have a separate merchant category code to separate firearms purchases. The bill protects financial records of firearms purchases from being disclosed unless required by law.

Rep. Rusty Grills, R-Newbern, explained that in 2022 the International Organization of Standardization recommended that financial institutions begin using a unique merchant category code specifically for transactions at firearms stores.

Grills said the risk of this is that merchants could then identify those purchases as suspicious, leading to search warrants, questions and unauthorized surveillance.

Rep. Justin J. Pearson, D-Memphis, pointed out no banks in Tennessee made the code changes. Grills said that was because Tennessee Attorney General Jonathan Skrmetti and a group of 27 attorneys general sent letters to merchants stating that the changes would not be enforced.

“If nobody is doing this in our state, the letter worked,” Pearson said, stating the Legislature should spend its time on more important matters.

Grills said the bill is necessary after a group of 43 members of Congress sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Treasury on March 27 attempting to get them to enforce the code changes.

The bill makes a violation of the merchant code ban up to a $10,000 civil penalty that results in an investigation from the attorney general.

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