NYT: credit card companies should cut off (or report) gun sales

In the New York Times, financial writer Andrew Ross Sorkin asks why credit card companies and banks should not be made to monitor customers’ accounts for unusual gun purchases and share the information with law enforcers. Excerpts from my response at Cato.

…In an advocacy piece imperfectly dressed up as a news story, New York Times financial reporter Andrew Ross Sorkin observes that some perpetrators of mass public shootings have bought guns and ammo using credit cards, and asks why credit card companies and banks should not be made to stop this. How? Well, they could “create systems to track gun purchases that would allow them to report suspicious patterns” and “prevent [customers] from buying multiple guns in a short period of time.” Invoking the Patriot Act – you knew that was coming, didn’t you? – the piece goes on to ask why the sweeping financial-snooping powers bestowed on the feds by that act should not be deployed against everyday civilians who purchase more guns than would seem fit for them to buy.,,,

The piece mentions one reason gun dealers are reluctant to pass on to banks information about what products their customers buy: someone else might come into possession of the list and know to pitch guns to those names. It doesn’t spell out nearly as clearly what might seem a bigger fear about a who-bought-guns data file, namely that it would go a long way toward identifying owners once confiscation of existing weaponry gets on the table as a proposal. The ACLU may not care about gun rights, but as Sorkin concedes, one of its policy analysts gets to much the same point by a different route: “The implication of expecting the government to detect and prevent every mass shooting is believing the government should play an enormously intrusive role in American life.”

Whole piece here.

P.S. Scott Greenfield: And just wait till they accomplish their crackdown on transactions in cash. More: David French, James Setterlund.


  • This is part of the larger “deplatforming” movement, in which not only Internet sites like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube but also payment processors including PayPal, Stripe, and Patreon are denying service to growing numbers of people for dissenting with those companies’ leftist agenda (though the deplatformers’ excuse for doing this is usually “hate speech”).

    This movement is dangerous and evil, and needs to be resisted until it can be outlawed, especially when done by (effective) monopoly services such as banks and credit card companies.

    Any so-called libertarian who laughs off this threat as if it were the free choice of participants in a true free market will only discredit himself even as he helps in his own victimization.

    • I do not laugh off, but actively oppose, proposals to forbid Twitter, PayPal, etc. to refuse to deal with customers they dislike, including on grounds of not wanting to be part of propagating hateful messaging. This, even though I sharply disagree with many decisions both services have made in cutting off customers and have vocally criticized them for doing so.

      I guess I am one of the “so-called libertarians” jdgalt believes are to be discredited.

  • Helpful definition omitted from the article: ” unusual gun purchase” = “any gun purchase”.

  • Given that PayPal has been threatened several times with prosecution by US federal banking regulators and everything that is known about operation Chokepoint, personally, I would be highly skeptical of claims that PayPal’s refusals to process payments for a number of otherwise legal products/services (porn) are voluntary decisions to not do business with customers that they dislike.

    • That is a perfectly fair point. In fact I and others have documented a large number of instances in which persons wielding government power have arm-twisted private actors into denying platforms.

      Even so, it is important to respond to the facts and circumstances of each case rather than jumping over to “It’s all coerced and should be dealt with accordingly.” To use the analogy of older technologies, while it is outrageous for a government functionary to call a bookstore or newsstand and get them to take a controversial publication off the shelf, it is also outrageous to force them to keep such a publication on the shelf if they genuinely and on their own do not wish to carry it.

  • “Even so, it is important to respond to the facts and circumstances of each case rather than jumping over to “It’s all coerced and should be dealt with accordingly.””

    I think that’s a fair point for social media services.

    However, again, given operation Chokepoint, and the NY AGs attempts to go after banks and insurance companies working with the NRA, it think it’s perfectly fair in the case of anything remotely related to financial services to presume government coercion absent explicit evidence to the contrary.

    Banking and financial services are heavily regulated, and there are simply too many opportunities for regulators to meddle quietly outside the public eye.