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What a Shooter's Payment Choice Reveals - or Doesn't

Payments Dive

Whether or not the payment type behind an active shooter’s purchase of a gun means anything may be revealed in patterns.

In a series of stories since last November, Payments Dive tracked the payment types used by active shooters to buy their guns. That investigation made at least one thing clear: There’s little information available on how shooters pay for their weapons. In wrapping up the series now, here’s what else we discovered.

We sought payment information from police departments, prosecutors, gun retailers and defendants’ lawyers, among other sources, asking for any receipts or documentation on credit, debit or cash transactions. What we discovered was that such evidence was available in very few cases, even though we investigated dozens of U.S. shooter incidents in which at least three people were killed.

We embarked on this effort last year after the payment type for gun purchases figured into a controversy over whether gun merchants should be assigned a code in credit card transactions. A group of Democratic state attorneys general, gun-control advocacy groups and Amalgamated Bank pressed for the code as a way to track suspicious gun purchases and thwart gun violence.

While the International Organization for Standardization approved such a merchant category code for gun merchants last September, adding it to a list of codes for retailers, U.S. card network companies declined to implement the standard. The four-digit code assigns a category to merchants based on the types of goods or services a merchant sells.

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