Iowa Law Will Ban Merchant Codes, Creation of Firearms Registries

by Tommy Grant

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Iowa is not only set to enact a law that prohibits financial institutions from using specific merchant codes on credit card transactions for gun purchases with firearms retailers, but will take it a step further and outright ban “state and local governmental agencies from keeping a record or registry of privately owned firearms”.

The legislation, House File 2464, recently cleared the final legislative hurdle when the Iowa House agreed to a Senate amendment. It now awaits Governor Kim Reynolds’ signature.

Under the proposed law, banks and credit card companies would be forbidden from using merchant codes that would single out firearms retailers from other types of merchants. Additionally, the bill would prohibit state and local government agencies from maintaining any registry of privately owned firearms, with exceptions only for records related to criminal investigations, legal proceedings or as mandated by other laws.

The bill also stipulates that law enforcement agencies may keep lists of stolen firearms that have been reported as such.

The Iowa Attorney General’s Office is tasked with overseeing compliance, authorized to investigate breaches and pursue civil actions in district court to prevent further violations. Entities found in violation would have 60 days to rectify the issue, with continued non-compliance potentially leading to civil penalties up to $1,000 per incident.

Supporters argue that the bill is a preventative measure against infringement on privacy and Second Amendment rights, citing moves by major credit card companies to introduce a merchant code for firearm and ammunition retailers following a new law in California. This law enables the tracking of potentially suspicious gun purchases, with the intention of reporting these to law enforcement.

This legislative action comes despite statements from lobbyists indicating that credit card companies had no plans to implement such codes in Iowa. But gun owners are all too aware of the slippery slope such laws and policies tend to have as one law justifies the creation and expansion of another based off legal precedent.

No thanks say Iowa’s Republicans.

Critics of the Iowa bill, primarily Democrats, have expressed skepticism about its necessity. During debates, Rep. David Jacoby of Coraville questioned the immediacy and relevance of the perceived problem the bill aims to address. In response, Rep. Ray Sorensen of Greenfield indicated that while no specific incidents prompted the bill, it serves as a preemptive safeguard.

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