Attorney General Todd Rokita is warning three large credit card companies that their use of a specific code to identify gun retailers appears intended to undermine the Second Amendment, and he's preparing to take action in response.

The Hoosier Republican, originally from Munster, joined 23 other GOP state attorneys general in a letter questioning the legality of Visa, Mastercard and American Express applying the new merchant category code to gun retailers choosing to use their networks.

Specifically, Rokita claims the credit card companies' use of an internal code to identify gun shops separate from other retailers "unfairly singles out law-abiding merchants and consumers alike."

"The new code for gun stores is the result of transnational collusion between large corporations leveraging their market power to further their owners’ desired social outcomes," Rokita said. "More importantly, purposefully tracking this information can only result in its misuse, either unintentional or deliberate."

For example, Rokita alleges a company that's able to generate a "list of gun buyers" creates "the obvious risk that law-abiding consumers’ information will be leaked, discovered, hacked, or otherwise obtained and misused by those who oppose Americans exercising their Second Amendment rights."

"Creating and tracking this data only matters if your institutions are considering using that information to take further, harmful action—like infringing upon consumer privacy, inhibiting constitutionally protected purchases by selectively restricting the use of your payment systems, or otherwise withholding your financial services from targeted 'disfavored' merchants," Rokita said.

At the same time, Rokita acknowledges that any such list of gun buyers necessarily would be inaccurate because stores that sell guns often sell other merchandise, such as gun safes and apparel. General retailers that sell guns, such as Walmart, also would not be categorized as gun shops by the credit card companies.

Nevertheless, Rokita insists that the new merchant code is a direct threat to the American values embodied in the 2nd Amendment and that he will not stand for it, or for any financial institutions "lending their market power to those who wish to attack that value."

"Be advised that we will marshal the full scope of our lawful authority to protect our citizens and consumers from unlawful attempts to undermine their constitutional rights. Please keep that in mind as you consider whether to proceed with adopting and implementing this merchant category code," Rokita said.

In response to the controversy, Visa issued a statement disavowing the supposed threat to American freedom posed by its use of a new merchant code as alleged by the attorneys general and others.

It explained that merchant category codes are routinely devised by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and exist for hundreds of different businesses, including beauty salons, bookstores, newsstands, bowling alleys and bakeries, among many others. At no point does the four-digit code give Visa product-level data listing each item purchased by its cardholders.

Visa said: "We do not believe private companies should serve as moral arbiters. Asking private companies to decide what legal products or services can or cannot be bought and from what store sets a dangerous precedent. Further, it would be an invasion of consumers' privacy for banks and payment networks to know each of our most personal purchasing habits. Visa is firmly against this."

Rokita's warning letter to the credit card companies follows a similar threat he issued earlier this month to the investment management firm BlackRock claiming its consideration of businesses' environmental, social and governance (ESG) policies as it weighs investment decisions potentially imperils the financial returns of the Indiana Public Retirement System.

"These woke 'Big Businesses' are collaborating with their leftist allies to subvert the will of the people, including by investing Hoosiers’ hard-earned money in ways that work against the best interests of Indiana families," Rokita said.

Separately, Rokita joined Indiana on Tuesday in an 11-state appellate legal filing seemingly defending Republican former President Donald Trump's alleged theft of more than 10,000 classified and other documents from the federal government because Rokita claims Democratic President Joe Biden cannot be trusted as an honest leader.

"The administration's conduct in connection with this case is of a piece with the gamesmanship and other questionable conduct that have become the hallmarks of its litigating, policy making and public relations efforts. At a minimum, this court should view the administration’s assertions of good-faith, neutrality, and objectivity through jaundiced eyes," Rokita said.
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