Polis signs bill to assign firearm code to gun, ammo purchases

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DENVER (KDVR) — A new law in Colorado will track firearm and ammunition purchases across payment networks, a move gun reform advocates say will help track suspicious purchases that could precede a mass shooting.

Gov. Jared Polis signed the bill into law on Wednesday. It requires card payment companies to apply a specific code to gun and ammo transactions in the state — something already done for other retailers, like grocery stores or gas stations.

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Prime sponsors include state Sen. Tom Sullivan and Reps. Meg Froelich and Javier Mabrey, all Democrats.

Supporters claim applying the four-digit “merchant category code” to firearm-related purchases will help banks and payment companies alert law enforcement of potentially dangerous purchasing patterns.

Sullivan, the Centennial senator whose son was killed in the Aurora theater mass shooting, has said the perpetrator used a credit card to buy about $11,000 in weapons and military gear in the weeks before the killings — “and nobody batted an eye.”

“Credit cards have been repeatedly used to finance mass shootings, and merchant codes would have allowed the credit card companies to recognize his alarming pattern of behavior and refer it to law enforcement,” Sullivan has said. “This bill will give us more tools to protect people, and make it easier to stop illegal firearms-related activity like straw purchases before disaster strikes.”

The opposition calls it backdoor registration.

“The really dangerous thing about this is it effectively creates a back door gun registry,” Taylor Rhodes, executive director of Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, has told FOX31’s Samantha Spitz. “Let’s say you go to Cabela’s and buy a shotgun. The government will know you bought that shotgun because of the merchant code associated with your purchase. Beforehand it was just deemed as a sporting good and they couldn’t track it the way they’re going to now.”

Gun, ammunition tracking to start next year

Under the new law, payment companies must make the firearm code available on or after Sept. 1. On May 1, 2025, the codes would be assigned and could then be tracked.

Violations carry a civil penalty of up to $10,000 each.

Rocky Mountain Gun Owners has vowed to wage legal challenges against some of the gun bills advancing in the legislature this session. But as FOX31’s Gabrielle Franklin has reported, opponents have said they probably will not pursue legal action against this measure.

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Meanwhile, the use of such firearm codes was restricted this week in Georgia, where Gov. Brian Kemp signed a bill into law that prohibits them.

Payment processors Visa, Mastercard and American Express had already said they planned to categorize gun sales.

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