A damning report published Wednesday alleges it's easy for people to purchase gun parts on eBay that can be used to build assault weapons. The report from Reveal
didn't dwell on whether or not eBay should allow the sale of legal gun parts. Instead, it focused on how eBay enforces its ban on illegal gun parts, claiming it's easy for sellers to get around the rules.
Reveal said its reporter flagged a listing for a prohibited part, a process that is supposed to result in a review by eBay and removal if found to be in violation of its Firearms policy. Reveal said the reporter placed three phone calls to eBay over the course of three weeks. As of today, the item remained for sale on eBay, it said.
Three years ago, we reported on eBay's shift in policy
, making a significant reversal by ending its prohibition on listings of firearm parts and accessories in late 2011 that it had implemented in 2007 after the Virginia Tech rampage.
In an email to certain sellers in 2012 informing them of the changes in policy, eBay wrote:
"We take the update to the Hunting category seriously and will monitor these items vigilantly for compliance with the eBay firearms policy and all relevant laws and regulations. You may now show your accessories on a firearm in your photo, as long as it is not an assault weapon and there is no indication in the listing that the firearm is included in the sale."
The email also said that since opening up the category, "there has been significant demand for these items, so don't miss this opportunity to sell more and reach more buyers by offering additional firearms parts and accessories on eBay. Expanding your inventory to offer these products can help grow your business. Take advantage of the update and start listing more items today."
As we reported in the 2012 article, eBay spokesperson Amanda Miller told EcommerceBytes, "These are parts and accessories that are legal to sell in the U.S. without restriction and are widely available at a range of online and offline stores. We made this change to more closely align our policy with legal requirements and to give sellers opportunities to offer more products in the hunting category."
This afternoon in response to our inquiry about the Reveal report on the availability of assault weapon parts on its site, eBay spokesperson Ryan Moore told EcommerceBytes, "We take proactive measures to identify listing that violate our policies, including but not limited to, keyword filters and other automated monitoring tools. Additionally, every listing has a "report this item" link, which allows our community members to alert us to listings for our review and removal. Through continuous investment in systems and teams dedicated to monitoring for and removing listing that violate our policies, we strive to provide a safe and secure shopping experience."
He continued, "On eBay, you are not allowed to list a receiver - without one, you cannot build a gun or assault weapon. Additionally our policy prohibits magazines that can hold more than 10 rounds. Our current policy is in line with California, as it has the most strict gun laws."
While you might not think of eBay rival Etsy when it comes to the sale of guns, it has long had a policy prohibiting firearms and weapons on its marketplace, and in February 2014, Etsy extended the policy
to include a ban on toy guns.
While the Reveal report might raise the issue the availability of gun parts on eBay in general (eBay itself has gone back and forth on this issue), the concern it raised is really about whether eBay is doing enough to crack down on the sale of illegal gun parts on the eBay Marketplace.
Look for more details in Thursday's Newsflash, and let us know what you think!