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Florida lawmakers say no to merchant codes to gun stores

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The Florida legislature has given its final approval to legislation that would fine credit card companies that implement merchant category codes for gun stores in the state, with the Florida House voting 83-32 in favor of SB 214 on Tuesday. Just a few hours earlier, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a separate bill into law that prohibits companies doing business with the state from discriminating against the firearms industry and other businesses, and the NSSF was quick to praise the governor and lawmakers for stepping up to protect gun shops and manufacturers in the Sunshine State.

“This is a promise kept by Governor DeSantis. He said he would ensure that ‘woke’ corporations would not benefit from Florida’s tax dollars while those same corporations actively discriminate against lawful but disfavored businesses. Today, Governor DeSantis delivered on that promise,” said Lawrence G. Keane, Senior Vice President and General Counsel for NSSF. “The firearm industry is deeply grateful to the legislators who worked diligently to protect industries that are wrongfully denied essential financial services simply because ‘woke’ Wall Street banks politically disagree with them. Wall Street can choose to hold on to those ‘woke’ discriminatory policies but Governor DeSantis has made it clear that Florida will choose to do business with those that share Floridians’ values.”

DeSantis is also expected to sign SB 214 into law in the near future, which will hopefully help put an end to the merchant category codes altogether. Major credit card companies including American Express, Visa, MasterCard, and Discover all announced last month that they were “pausing” the rollout of the merchant category codes in part because of the Florida legislation and similar bills introduced in a handful of other states. While the companies have maintained all along that the category codes aren’t designed to identify “suspicious” transactions and wouldn’t have the effect that anti-gun supporters claim they would have, Democrats were still trotting out their outdated talking points in opposition to SB 214 during the final debate over the bill.

“When we know that these types of situations where large purchases of ammunition are being bought and we know sometimes the good guys aren’t the ones buying them,” said Rep. Hillary Cassel, a Dania Beach Democrat.

Others noted the bill imposes restrictions on private companies, but also that credit card companies have backed off the financial classification codes for guns in the face of pressure from conservatives, making it a moot point anyway.

“When does public safety, public health and human life matter more than how we sell a gun?” said Rep. Christine Hunschofsky, a Parkland Democrat.

The merchant category codes wouldn’t be able to identify if someone bought a large amount of ammunition in the first place, since specific purchases aren’t tracked by the MCCs. A credit card company would be able to tell how much someone spent at a particular store, but not what they bought, so the codes would be of little investigative value despite the claims of Democrats like Cassel.

As for the argument that the legislation is moot because the credit card companies have yet to implement the MCCs, what the companies actually said is that they were “pausing” the rollout of the new codes, not that they were officially declining to participate in the future. At the very least SB 214 provides additional incentives for the companies to keep the merchant category codes on ice, but either way it’s neither unnecessary nor unneeded.

Taken together HB 3 and SB 214 will offer some real protection to the firearms industry, though it probably won’t be enough to get big firms like Bank of America to back off its discriminatory stance towards businesses in the industry. Still, anti-gun banks will now have to choose between doing lucrative business with the state of Florida and imposing their own gun control policies on business customers, and some may very well decide that keeping those policies in place isn’t worth the hit to their bottom line. SB 214 and HB 3 won’t get as many headlines as DeSantis signing permitless carry did, but they’re still two very important pieces of legislation that should be of real benefit to gun makers, gun sellers, and gun owners as well.

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