“We are guided by the federal laws in a country, and our job is to create and to facilitate fair and secure commerce,” Visa Board Chairman and CEO Alfred Kelly told CNBC.
Payment companies such as Paypal, Square, Apple Pay and Stripe do not allow their services to be used for firearms-related purchases, the Washington Examiner reported.
Some have called for the financial sector to make firearms purchases more difficult.
In a 2018 piece in The New York Times, Andrew Ross Sorkin said the financial sector could choke off gun purchases if it chose.
“What if the finance industry — credit card companies like Visa, Mastercard and American Express; credit card processors like First Data; and banks like JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo — were to effectively set new rules for the sales of guns in America?” he wrote.
Visa “could easily change its terms of service to say that it won’t do business with retailers that sell assault weapons, high-capacity magazines and bump stocks, which make semiautomatic rifles fire faster. If Mastercard were to do the same, assault weapons would be eliminated from virtually every firearms store in America because otherwise the sellers would be cut off from the credit card system,” he added.
He noted financial institutions cracked down on the use of credit cards they issued to buy Bitcoin.
“To be clear: Those three banks won’t let you use your credit card to buy Bitcoin, but they will happily let you use it to buy an AR-15-style semiautomatic rifle — the same kind of gun used in mass shootings in Parkland; Newtown, Conn.; San Bernardino, Calif.; Las Vegas; and Sutherland Springs, Tex,” Sorkin wrote.
Kelly rejected that line of thinking.
“The reality is that it’s very hard for us to do it. … If we start to get in the mode of being legislators it’s a very slippery slope,” Kelly said. “We shouldn’t be determining what’s right or wrong in terms of people’s purchases.”
He added that Visa will continue to “follow the laws of the land.”
“We shouldn’t tell people they can’t purchase a 32-ounce soda. We shouldn’t tell people they can’t buy reproductive drugs,” Kelly said.
Kelly said, however, that legislators “need to do their job” to address gun violence.
“They ought to get busy on some common-sense changes to deal with the horrific problems that we’ve seen in the United States, not just this weekend but for years and years,” he said. “It’s time to start looking at mental health, the size of these magazines, the type of weapons. They’ve got to do something.”
In May, Mastercard Chief Executive Officer Ajay Banga said he said that even if his company had the ability to pinpoint firearms-related purchases and block them, the company would not do so, Bloomberg reported.
“I actually don’t know whether you’re buying a gun or a diaper in a store,” Banga said, adding that it would be hard “to turn off the acceptance of payments at a Walmart that sells bullets and diapers. I don’t know how to do it — I actually don’t know how to do it.”
Banga said there is a larger issue at stake beyond whether electronic systems can target specific items.
“This idea that somehow a few people can decide what the rest of society should be allowed to do, or not, even if it’s currently legal, I find that an interesting conundrum to discuss,” Banga said.
“Should I allow cards to be used to buy cigarettes? What about alcohol? What about contraceptive devices? Where would you like the line to be drawn, based on whose interpretation of what’s acceptable and not?”
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