Net News: May 1999

By Jeff W. Zimba

Bye Bye eBay

Whether it is a failure to understand firearms law, or an effort to be politically correct, firearms enthusiasts are no longer welcome on the largest auction site on the Internet.

eBay, an enormous Internet auction site has closed the doors to gun enthusiasts worldwide. In an announcement on February 19th 1999, eBay stated that firearms listings would no longer be permitted on their site as of March 5th, 1999. Their reasoning was that current laws governing the sale of firearms were not created for Internet sales, and are therefore not effective in that application. While their new position may seem to hinge on law, a little further reading clearly shows that the law appears to play no part in their decisions.

In their statement about questionable items it is printed that “..fully automatic weapons are illegal items following United States federal law.” Stated in their Firearms Policy FAQ, ‘..illegal components, such as silencers, converters (to convert a firearm to have automatic capability), short barrels, or high-capacity magazines are prohibited...” In their newly expanded ban of ALL firearms sales their definition of a gun is as follows: a gun is “a weapon consisting of a metal tube from which a projectile is fired at a high velocity.” They have even stated that by their own definition they will no longer permit the sale of BB guns and air guns. It seems obvious to me that the law alone is not their driving factor here.

This first came to my attention when chatting with a friend who used eBay extensively and enjoyed the service. He received a statement, out of the blue, that his auction was terminated because the item he was offering was illegal. A letter also followed to those who were bidding on the item, prompting many angry e-mails to the seller demanding to know why he was trying to sell them an illegal rifle. In this case, the suspect item was a pre-ban AK-47, semi-auto rifle. eBay sent numerous letters like that one to all similar auctions and cancelled them effective immediately. After many angry complaints from their members they toned down their letter to state that the item may be illegal. The following is an e-mail sent to one of their members on February 22nd and forwarded to me;

Subject: NOTICE: eBay Auction(s) Ended - Generic, legal

Dear Jack,

We regret to inform you your eBay auction(s):

700xxxxx MP5 SP89 HK94 mags HK preban 9mm German

has (have) ended. All fees associated with this (these) auction(s) has (have) been credited to your account.

We have been informed that your listing contains items which may be infringing or potentially illegal. We take no position on the authenticity of your goods. Please be advised that upon proper request we do provide law enforcement with all information we have pertaining to eBay users and transactions.

I really don’t know what transpired to cause eBay to enact this ridiculous policy. I have heard a few stories, but as of press time they are just stories. I was saddened that a perfectly legal and legitimate trade was being discontinued when the reasons given for it were clearly bogus. Their reasoning of current laws not applying to dealing on the Internet does not make a bit of sense. All this boils down to is the form of advertising used. When a firearm is purchased out of a trade magazine, it must be shipped to a licensed dealer so the dealer can complete the transaction in person, thereby abiding to all laws, Federal, State, and Local. Purchasing one by word of mouth, or from an Internet listing has absolutely no bearing on how the transaction must be completed. ALL firearms purchased MUST be shipped to federally licensed firearms dealers regardless of how the firearm is advertised. To believe the form of advertising has any bearing on the legality of the delivery of the firearm is asinine.

Well, seeing that eBay must be so concerned about our safety as well as their moral duty to those of us in the general public, I did a little surfing on their site. If they are no longer allowing firearms, although a perfectly legal trade, I figured their morality must flow in all directions. What I found during my searches proved how very wrong I was. My search for Porno was matched with 39 items consisting of movies and such. A search for Marijuana came back with 48 matches including T-shirts, lighters, water pipes, tattoos, and jewelry. A search for Opium came back with 90 hits, including pipes, seeds and incense. A search for Gambling returned 221 matches, offering chips, books, and dice. Simply punching in XXX returned 354 offerings of all sorts. I am certain you will sleep better tonight knowing that those horrible firearms are no longer being offered on eBay.

On an up note, there is a new auction site out there that welcomes your firearms interests and is specializing in guns. Their address is http://www.auctionguns.com. The pricing is competitive for advertising there, and the site owners are certainly not likely to be even a little persuaded by the evil realm of political correctness. I am certain this will turn into a great asset for all of us in the firearms industry. You will have to go back to eBay though to buy opium pipes and porn mags.

At press time there were several ststements in the news regarding ATF and other government agencies checking out the eBay operations, so it may be pressure from elswhere causing this to happen.

This article first appeared in Small Arms Review V2N8 (May 1999)
and was posted online on May 6, 2016


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