Rep. Wexton Hopes to Crack Down on Gun Violence By Examining Financial Information

December 11, 2019
In The News

Congresswoman Jennifer Wexton (D-Va.-10th) is looking to combat gun violence by using credit card information.

Wexton released details of a new proposal, the Gun Violence Prevention Through Financial Intelligence Act, in November.

Should the bill makes its way through Congress, lawmakers would direct the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) to assist financial institutions through its Financial Institutions Advisory Program in identifying and reporting suspicious or illegal financial activity related to firearms.

Banks are already required by the Bank Secrecy Act to have programs in place to detect and report suspicious activity concerning money laundering, terrorist financing or other criminal activities, according to Wexton’s office. FinCEN assists this reporting through the use of advisories that typically identify “red flags” that may indicate illicit activity.

Since 1996, FinCEN has periodically issued public and nonpublic advisories on things like foreign corruption, human smuggling, cybercrime, and fentanyl trafficking.

The new proposal would require FinCEN to spend up to a year collecting financial information for the purpose of issuing an advisory to assist financial institutions in identifying suspicious firearms transactions, officials said. Historically, retail-level purchase information -- or SKU-level data -- has been hard to obtain and the effectiveness of the advisory would depend on merchants sharing information about specific firearms products.

If FinCEN determines that the data collected is insufficient, they must submit a report to Congress detailing the process and identifying barriers to data collection.

The bill has gained support from the Michael Bloomberg-backed Everytown for Gun Safety and is cosponsored by Reps. Donald S. Beyer Jr. (D-Va.), Antonio Cárdenas (D-Calif.), Sean T. Casten (D-Ill.), Gerald E. Connolly (D-Va.), Henry R. Cuellar (D-Texas), Madeleine C. Dean (D-Penn.), Alcee L. Hastings (D-Florida) and Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.).

“Banks, credit card companies, and retailers have unique insight into the behavior and purchasing patterns that can help identify and prevent mass shootings. We know that financial intelligence can be an effective tool to combat gun violence in the same way it is for money laundering, human smuggling, and fentanyl trafficking,” Wexton said in a prepared statement