Georgia House advances gun safety training tax credit, ban on gun store merchant category code

by Tommy Grant

Separate gun bills passed by the Georgia House of Representatives Tuesday would provide a tax credit to pay for gun safety training and gun safes, while another would prohibit financial institutions from using a code to distinguish firearms retailers.

The tax credit bill received bipartisan support, passing the chamber by a vote of 162-3. It provides a state income tax credit of up to $300 that could be used to pay for training and gun storage devices.

But Democrats decried the second bill banning the merchant code as a giveaway to the gun lobby that would make the state less safe.

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Both bills now go to the state Senate for consideration.

Merchant category codes exist for almost every kind of purchase, including those made at supermarkets, clothing stores, coffee shops and many other retailers. In 2022, Visa and other credit card companies said they would adopt the International Organization for Standardization’s new merchant code for gun sales, though they later put that decision on hold in the face of opposition from the gun lobby and conservative politicians.

There had been hope that categorizing credit and debit card purchases would allow authorities to potentially see red flags — like significant ammunition purchases — before a mass shooting could happen.

Republican state Rep. Jason Ridley, noting the ISO is based in Switzerland, said the code could be used to create a registry of gun sales.

“I don’t care which side of firearms you stand on,” he said. “Nobody should know what you’re buying and keeping a registry, especially a foreign country.”

Democratic state Rep. Shea Roberts said the legislation would take away a tool banks could use to detect fraud and law enforcement agencies could use to spot people stockpiling weapons for a possible mass shooting attack.

“It’s what we’ve seen time and time again,” she said. “The gun lobby trumps everything.”

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