Why does the CEO of Amalgamated Bank think we need a gun code?


OOn March 9, the major US credit card companies Visa, Mastercard and American Express announced that they will not refuse to introduce a new code that identifies purchases at retail stores. “Guns are different than buying from big box stores or other open stores. The code, approved in September 2022 by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), which regulates international protocols followed by credit companies, has been strongly criticized by Republican lawmakers.

The new classification was first proposed by Amalgamated Bank, a century-old US bank that aims to become a socially responsible financial services provider in 2021. Amalgamated CEO Priscilla Sims Brown said in a statement that “an important measure that helps law enforcement prevent criminal activity and gun violence has been discontinued,” but it took months, just like the ISO. Given the nature of the code, he is confident that “the industry will implement this common sense approach to keeping our communities safe.” In a December 2022 interview with TIME, Sims Brown explained why the code is so effective.

Amalgamated Bank petitioned ISO create a special trade code for gun shops. I wonder if you could explain how this would help stop gun violence?

I think it helps with illegal gun purchases, which can lead to gun violence, because it’s one of the many steps in the process of identifying illegal activity. Armed criminals follow certain patterns. If we can detect these patterns before the crime is committed, we can solve the illegal procurement before the crime.

What are these models?

There is an established trend, for example, of getting new credit cards before making many purchases. Then there is a tendency to visit multiple stores so that no one (store) identifies these purchases. Then there is the pattern of crime that often occurs within weeks of the purchases being made. It can be related to mass shootings, and it can also be related to arms trafficking, where weapons are bought from one place, transported to another place, and sold on the black market.

Amalgamated Bank CEO Priscilla Sims Brown speaks during U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s briefing with anti-gun activists in New York, Dec. 4, 2022.

Lev Radin — Press of the Pacific/Shutterstock

So gun dealers go to other stores in New Hampshire, where it’s easy to buy guns, and then go to, say, New York and sell them illegally?

Right. In the Las Vegas (shooting), when those 59 people died, the man spent $95,000 at gun stores before committing the crime, and he did it with new credit cards. He followed the pattern I described. This is the case with the Pulse nightclub murders and several others.

Former Visa CEO Al Kelly recently said that he doesn’t think the ISO classification works the way you suggest, because people might be buying tents or security devices from gun stores or department store shelves. They wouldn’t necessarily be weapons, so they wouldn’t be useful. Have an opinion on this?

You’re right, it could be anything you buy from a gun department or gun store other than a gun or ammo. It could be a bra. We have no way of knowing what you have purchased. All this is true. However, when you have a recurring pattern of high amounts after getting several new credit cards, I think questions are raised, and those questions can lead to the discovery of a crime.

Learn more: Congress, guns and porn; How Al Kelly navigated his last year as CEO of VISA

Have you heard many politicians talking about new protocols?

I heard from people with strong opinions on both sides: members of Congress, senators, attorneys general. People everywhere have very strong opinions about this.

This ISO application was made before Amalgamated Bank was incorporated. Did that affect your decision to join the group, knowing that you would inherit a major controversy?

Even though we applied before I joined the bank, we were rejected once. So I didn’t know about the problem before registering. After seeing a lot of gun crime, I did what most people do no matter what roles we play. We are all starting to wonder what can or should be done to solve this problem, which is really a tragedy in this country. . I think coming from Australia (my former role as a bank manager) and thinking about freedom, walking down the street in places where it’s not a problem, it made me want to do our part.

Let’s talk about Australia for a moment. There was a horrific mass shooting of 35 people, and the very conservative prime minister at the time introduced gun legislation. There were huge protests, but Australians now support a common set of rules, and in the 30 years since, there have been very few mass shootings. Is there any part of this law that can be sent to America?

I think we are in a very different place to Australia when this decision was made. I think about it a lot. Glad to hear from legal gun owners. I’m glad to hear from law enforcement because both groups believe in the Second Amendment. Gun owners own guns for sport or defense, and they want illegal activities on the street. I think these voices will prevail over time.

Do you support the second amendment?

Absolutely. And all other congressional amendments for that matter.

Gun rights advocates say NICS, the FBI’s National Rapid Criminal Investigation System, should be enough. If a person makes multiple purchases from gun stores in quick succession, there will be a lot of NICS checks, so someone at the FBI background check should report it. Do you agree with this?

I don’t know enough about this process to comment.

We live in a time when corporations and business leaders are being demanded by their employees and shareholders to take a stand on political issues. How do you manage this cultural change?

Listen, I think it’s important that we take a stand on things that are right for the employer and the financial services company. There are issues outside of our swimming lane and outside of our regulatory or social responsibility obligations. And I think it’s important to stay in our lanes.

Why is there a gun in the hallway?

I think it comes down to my duty as a financial services company to know my customer. There is a KYC (Know Your Customer) rule. This is one of the reasons. Another thing is that I believe we have an obligation not to knowingly finance illegal activities, whether it’s firearms, human trafficking or other types of financial crimes like money laundering or fraud. All of this is that after 9/11, the Patriot Act was designed to encourage us, in fact, force us to address it, so I think it’s a valid conversation.

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