In recent years, more retailers have turned to "buy now, pay later" financing to help customers pay for goods and services.
Buy now, pay later, or BNPL, programs, which are typically offered interest-free, allow customers to pay for products in installments. The programs have proven especially popular with younger shoppers who can't or don't want to use credit cards to pay for their items.
Now, one BNPL firm has drawn the attention of Democrats for making it easier for consumers to use the payment plans to buy guns and ammunition.
On Monday, 18 Democratic lawmakers sent a letter to Credova Financial LLC, based in Bozeman, Montana, to express concern that its purchasing programs could worsen America’s gun violence problem. Lawmakers representing large cities, including New York, Boston and Houston, were among those who signed the letter.
“We are concerned that the ease with which buyers can acquire guns through BNPL will result in more guns and increased gun violence in our nation’s communities,” they wrote. They estimated that Credova has already partnered with nearly 70 gun merchants and noted that it claims “merchants who use Credova see up to 51% increase in overall sales volume.”
The letter was first reported by The New York Times.
The lawmakers say that BNPL programs often entail only "soft" credit checks and that the installment payment options have become widely popular with younger consumers.
Among the representatives’ questions: What safeguards does Credova have in place to ensure firearms aren't being purchased illegally or by people with criminal histories using the company’s services? Does Credova have information about whether guns bought through its BNPL program have been used to commit unlawful acts of violence? And how does Credova ensure that purchases of firearms meet state firearm purchase requirements?
Credova did not comment on the record when asked about lawmakers' concerns over the use of installment payment plans to purchase weapons.
Credova advertises itself as a BNPL option for the "outdoor lifestyle." While its homepage doesn't include any references to firearms, Guns.com, GrabAGun.com and other websites prominently feature Credova as an option for people looking to pay for their firearms in monthly installments. The GrabAGun.com website markets the option as "Shoot Now, Pay Later."
Neither Guns.com nor GrabAGun.com responded to emailed requests for comment.
The rise of BNPL to finance gun buying has been too recent to draw conclusions about how widespread it is and what its impact has been, said Adam Skaggs, the chief counsel and policy director at the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence
What is known is that mass shooters, as well as people in danger of harming themselves, have repeatedly bought firearms by taking on debt in the form of credit card purchases that demonstrated they did not intend to pay it back at full cost, Skaggs said. He cited the Aurora, Colo. shooter who killed 12 people in 2012 after using credit to buy thousands of dollars worth of guns, ammo and body armor over the course of two months.
Skaggs also pointed to the Orlando shooter who killed 49 people in 2016, after charging more than $26,000 on credit cards to purchase guns and ammunition in just 12 days; and the Las Vegas, N.V. shooter who charged more than $90,000 on credit cards to purchase guns and ammunition over a 12-month period.
"If you have someone committing a mass shooting or suicide-by-cop or a murder-suicide that can acquire the means of violence without the intention to pay off ... there's a danger in that regard," he said.