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Indiana House passes GOP-backed firearm sale privacy legislation

On Tuesday, the Indiana House of Representatives voted to pass a GOP-authored bill aimed at keeping records of gun sales and ownership private.

House Bill 1084, authored by Rep. Jake Teshka, R-North Liberty, was prompted by a December 2022 announcement by the International Organization for Standardization of the creation a new merchant category code for sellers of guns and ammunition. MCC four-digit codes are used to sort merchants into categories, and are used for a variety of purposes, including tax reporting and calculating consumers’ cash back rewards.

The decision to create a specific MCC for gun sellers followed years of advocacy by progressive legislators and other anti-gun violence advocates, who believe code can help track suspicious purchases linked to mass shootings and other crimes committed with firearms.

News of the new MCC was met with hostility by many Republicans and gun rights advocates across the country, who framed the code as a means of surveilling law-abiding gun owners and facilitating discrimination against gun sellers. In March 2023, top payment networks including American Express and Mastercard cited the backlash in an announcement that they had put implementation of the new MCC on hold.

HB 1084 bars governmental entities and individuals in Indiana from maintaining a database of firearms or firearm owners. The legislation would also disallow payment processors from labeling gun sales with a specific MCC and from refusing to process a transaction solely because it bears the MCC. Under the bill, the state attorney general would be empowered to seek civil penalties of up to $10,000 per violation.

HB 1084, which Teshka said is “aimed at protecting the privacy of Hoosiers who choose to exercise their second amendment rights,” has the backing of gun rights groups, including the National Rifle Association’s lobbying arm.

House Democrats were split on the bill during Tuesday’s vote, with 22 of the party’s 30 House members voting against the legislation.

Indiana would be the latest in a string of Republican-controlled states to block the use of a gun seller-specific MCC. Texas, Florida, Idaho, Mississippi, Montana, North Dakota, and West Virginia have all adopted similar legislation, and more states are considering passage of their own versions.