Visa’s Mobile Payments for Guns Separation Expands

October 9, 2019         By: Steven Anderson

Not so long ago, we first heard that certain Visa shareholders were concerned about the company’s ability to make accessing firearms—or rather the ability to pay for them—mobile payments easy. This kicked off a debate over the role that credit card processors should play, if any, in the ongoing gun control issue. Visa has made its position clear in the past, and now, a new report sent our way from SumOfUs makes Visa’s position even clearer.

The word from SumOfUs noted that the group had been “excluded” from Visa’s upcoming January 2020 annual shareholder meeting, following its previous efforts to force the company to “take action on gun violence.” Previously, investors offered Visa a proposal that would call for the company to offer annual reports on impacts to Visa’s reputation, and to legal issues surrounding the use of its credit cards as a means to “…finance mass shootings.”

This might sound like a bridge too far, in the vein of suggesting that Ford is somehow responsible for drunk driving fatalities, but word from the New York Times helped here. The Times’ word noted that almost two out of three of the deadliest mass shootings in history had a credit card connection, including the Pulse nightclub shooter, who was said to have charged over $20,000 in guns and ammunition before engaging in his shooting.

The move projected would have serious, immediate ramifications for Visa. While there is a certain amount of “reputational damage” that would be involved, that reputation damage is likely felt among people who weren’t buying firearms and ammo anyway. It would be a hit to Visa to lose that business altogether, but it’s hard to believe that anyone’s so willing to change their credit card—and all that entails—over allowing others to use their own particular card for a purpose of which some disapprove.

Visa may well be excluding SumOfUs because it’s safe to do so; this proposal would ultimately slit Visa’s own throat and force it to be a gatekeeper with no end in sight. Once firearms purchases are banned, what follows? Adult entertainment? Vehicles with “insufficient” gas mileage? Plastic straws? Visa, ultimately, will likely hold to the path of maximum profit, allowing individual cardholders to make their own purchasing decisions and processing the payments and collecting the interest in the meantime.