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New Zealand Shooting Rampage Reignites Debate over Online Weapons Sales

Trade Me
New Zealand Attack Reignites Debate over Online Weapons Sales

New Zealand marketplace Trade Me adjusted its weapons policy following the shooting rampage that took place in that country last week in which 50 people died and 34 people were injured. “We have listened to public sentiment following Friday’s terrorist attack in Christchurch,” Trade Me wrote, “and decided to remove all semi-automatic firearms sales and parts associated with those weapons today.”

Trade Me announced the new policy on Monday morning local time, explaining it was halting the sale of semi-automatic weapons while it awaited clarity from the government. New Zealand’s Prime Minister has said the government would announce gun law changes in response to the terrorist attack, according to the Washington Post.

Trade Me is the leading online marketplace and classified site in New Zealand. It was founded in 1999, sold to Fairfax Media in 2006, and became a publicly traded company in 2012. It’s in the process of selling itself to Titan AcquisitionCo NZ, a company owned by UK-based private-equity company Apax Partners, for a reported implied equity value of $2.56 billion, according to AutoFile.co.nz.

The sale of weapons online has long been controversial. Former CEO Meg Whitman banned guns and ammunition from eBay on February 19, 1999, and since then, eBay has made several adjustments to its weapons policy.

After the April 2007 Virginia Tech mass shooting, Matt Halprin, eBay’s Vice President of Trust & Safety, said some items purchased on eBay might have been used in the tragedy. He announced in July of that year that eBay would ban listings for any firearm part required for the firing of a gun, including bullet tips, brass casings and shells, barrels, slides, cylinders, magazines, firing pins, and trigger assemblies.

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However, on December 8, 2011, eBay quietly loosened the policy, continuing to ban gun sales, but allowing the sale of certain gun parts. As part of the policy change, eBay also began allowing sellers in the hunting category to post images of guns to illustrate the products in use.

In 2015, eBay’s policy attracted scrutiny after an article claimed that, “For the do-it-yourself crowd, “building an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle is as easy as browsing ads on eBay,” but the company continues to allow the sale of gun parts with certain restrictions – see the eBay help page for the full policy.

Amazon, meanwhile, prohibits the listing or sale of all firearms and ammunition but allows the sale of certain firearm accessories – see the Amazon website for its full policy.

There are also sites dedicated to the sale of weapons, such as GunBroker.com, which lists prohibited items under its Site Rules section. The site publishes a firearms industry news page that posts headlines with links to AmmoLand that shows the New Zealand attack is on the minds of gunowners.

Trade Me wrote in its announcement on Monday, “Our view is that trading between licensed owners via Trade Me in a safe, trusted, transparent and traceable environment is better for New Zealand than many of the alternatives. But it is clear public sentiment has changed in relation to semi-automatic weapons and we acknowledge that, which is why we’re putting this ban in place. There is a bit of work involved in doing this but we will have these listings removed later today.”

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Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner is co-founder and Editor of EcommerceBytes and has been reporting on ecommerce since 1999. She's a widely cited authority on marketplace selling and is author of "Turn eBay Data Into Dollars" (McGraw-Hill 2006). Her blog was featured in the book, "Blogging Heroes" (Wiley 2008). Follow her on Twitter at @ecommercebytes and send news tips to ina@ecommercebytes.com.

One thought on “New Zealand Shooting Rampage Reignites Debate over Online Weapons Sales”

  1. About as dumb as sites not allowing knife sales, but will allow screw drivers, hammers, kitchen knives, chainsaws.

    Its just hypocritical.

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