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Should gun store sales get special credit card tracking? States split on mandating or prohibiting it

Beginning Monday, a California law will require credit card networks like Visa and Mastercard to provide banks with special retail codes that can be assigned to gun stores in order to track their sales.

But new laws will do the exact opposite in Georgia, Iowa, Tennessee and Wyoming by banning the use of specific gun shop codes.

The conflicting laws highlight what has quietly emerged as one of the nation’s newest gun policy debates, dividing state capitols along familiar partisan lines.

Some Democratic lawmakers and gun-control activists hope the new retail tracking code will help financial institutions flag suspicious gun-related purchases for law enforcement agencies, potentially averting mass shootings and other crimes. Lawmakers in Colorado and New York have followed California’s lead.

“The merchant category code is the first step in the banking system saying, `Enough! We’re putting our foot down,’” said Hudson Munoz, executive director of the nonprofit advocacy group Guns Down America. "`You cannot use our system to facilitate gun crimes.’”

But many Republican lawmakers and gun-rights advocates fear the retail code could lead to unwarranted suspicion of gun buyers who have done nothing wrong. Over the past 16 months, 17 states with GOP-led legislatures have passed measures prohibiting a firearms store code or limiting its use.

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