Menendez Leads Message to Big Tech: Close Your Gun-Shopping Loopholes

Menendez Leads Message to Big Tech: Close Your Gun-Shopping Loopholes

Despite policies banning their sales, gun accessory listings available on Google, Amazon and eBay in days following mass shootings

 

NEWARK, N.J. -- U.S. Senator Bob Menendez is leading colleagues today in calling on the CEOs of Google, Amazon and eBay to close the gun shopping loopholes which, in the days following mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton, reportedly allowed listings for the purchase of shotgun rounds, ammunition clips, assault weapon components and a drum magazine nearly identical to the one used in the Dayton massacre, in violation of their stated policies banning such sales on their platforms. 

Senator Menendez was joined by Senators Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.) in letters to Google CEO Sundar Pichai, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and eBay CEO Devin Wenig. 

“America is in the throes of a gun violence epidemic and it is incumbent upon corporate America to do its part to help end the carnage,” said separate letters to each CEO.  “…[I]t is not enough to simply ban such sales. Effective monitoring and the suspension of accounts in violation of these policies is essential.”

Citing an assortment of so-called banned gun accessories that sellers were able to advertise on their sites for immediate purchase, the Senators demanded answers from each company about how they will ensure these deadly products are kept off their platforms. 

"Clearly, your “efforts are falling short of what is required in light of the current crisis,” they wrote. 

Copies of the letters being sent to Google, Amazon and eBay are below:

 

August 9, 2019

Sundar Pichai, CEO

Google, Inc.

1600 Amphitheatre parkway

Mountain View, CA 94043

 

Dear Mr. Pichai:

We write to urge you to immediately implement stronger measures to keep gun accessory sales off your platform. America is in the throes of a gun violence epidemic and it is incumbent upon corporate America to do its part to help end the carnage. 

Since 2012, Google Shopping has prohibited sellers from listing guns and gun accessories for sale.[1] Unfortunately, it appears as though Google’s efforts to enforce this policy are insufficient. For example, The Trace reports that a search on August 5, 2019 found “a 100-round drum magazine nearly identical to the one used by a mass shooter in Dayton, Ohio, on August 4.”[2] A search by The Washington Post, also on August 5, returned listings for boxes of shotgun rounds such as the 20-round Hornady Critical Defense set, described on the manufacturer’s website as able to “place all projectiles on a man-sized target at seven yards” and “provide excellent penetration.”[3] This is not a new problem. Newsweek reported in March 2018 that when consumers using Google Shopping searched “handgun,” results returned a message saying, “Your search - handgun - did not match any shopping results”. Yet, if users switched around a few of those letters, like searching “handgnu” or another misspelling, that platform would populate with firearms for sale.[4] Clearly, Google must do more to keep these items off its platform.

We applaud Google Shopping for refusing to service online firearm and ammunitions purchases. This is exactly the type of common sense gun policy that enjoys broad support with the American public. Unfortunately, it is not enough to simply ban such sales. Effective monitoring and the suspension of accounts in violation of these policies is essential. As such, we have concerns that Google’s efforts are falling short of what is required in light of the current crisis.  

To address these concerns, please provide answers to the following questions no later than September 9, 2019:

  1. On average, how many listings for gun and/or gun accessory sales does Google take down per month?
  2. On average, how many accounts does Google suspend for violating the gun sale policy per month?
  3. What measures does Google have in place to ensure that if an account is suspended for violating the gun sale policy, that seller cannot create another account under a different username? 
  4. What proactive measures does Google take to ensure that users are not able to skirt Google Shopping’s ban on gun sales?
  5. What policies does Google have in place to alert law enforcement to instances of gun trafficking on its platforms?
  6. How does Google handle reports from users alerting it to listings for gun and/or gun accessory sales on Google Shopping? On average how many instances of gun sales are flagged by users each month? 
  7. Given that Google Shopping searches conducted mere days after the attacks in El Paso and Dayton yielded results for high-capacity magazines and shotgun rounds, please describe in detail what new measures Google will implement to ensure these products are kept off of its platform.

Sincerely,

 

 

August 9, 2019 

Jeffrey Bezos, Chairman, President, and CEO

Amazon.com Inc.

1200 12th Ave. South, Suite 1200

Seattle, WA 98144

 

Dear Mr. Bezos:

We write to urge you to immediately implement stronger measures to keep gun accessory sales off your platform. America is in the throes of a gun violence epidemic and it is incumbent upon corporate America to do its part to help end the carnage. 

As you know, Amazon prohibits sellers from listing guns and gun accessories for sale.[5] Unfortunately, it appears as though Amazon’s efforts to enforce this policy are insufficient. For example, The Washington Post reports that a search on August 5, 2019 found ammunition clips for sale, such as the Butler Creek 25-round magazine, an attachment for rifles used to store multiple bullets.[6] Clearly, Amazon must do more to keep these items off its platform.

We applaud Amazon for refusing to service online firearm and ammunitions purchases. This is exactly the type of common sense gun policy that enjoys broad support with the American public. Unfortunately, it is not enough to simply ban such sales. Effective monitoring and the suspension of accounts in violation of these policies is essential. As such, we have concerns that Amazon’s efforts are falling short of what is required in light of the current crisis.

To address these concerns, please provide answers to the following questions no later than September 9, 2019:

  1. On average, how many listings for gun and/or gun accessory sales does Amazon take down per month?
  2. On average, how many accounts does Amazon suspend for violating the gun sale policy per month?
  3. What measures does Amazon have in place to ensure that if an account is suspended for violating the gun sale policy, that seller cannot create another account under a different username? 
  4. What proactive measures does Amazon take to ensure that sellers are not able to skirt Amazon’s ban on gun and gun accessory sales?
  5. What policies does Amazon have in place to alert law enforcement to instances of gun trafficking on its platforms?
  6. How does Amazon handle reports from users alerting it to listings for gun and/or gun accessory sales on its platform? On average how many listings for gun and/or gun accessory sales are flagged by users each month? 
  7. Given that Amazon searches conducted mere days after the attacks in El Paso and Dayton yielded results for a high-capacity magazines[7], please describe in detail what new measures Amazon will implement to ensure these products are kept off of its platform.

Sincerely,

 

 

August 9, 2019

Devin Wenig

2025 Hamilton Avenue

San Jose, California, 95125

 

Dear Mr. Wenig:

We write to urge you to immediately implement stronger measures to keep guns and gun accessory sales off your platform. America is in the throes of a gun violence epidemic and it is incumbent upon corporate America to do its part to help end the carnage. 

eBay prohibits the sale of complete firearms and certain firearm parts and types of ammunition from being sold on its website.[8] Unfortunately, it appears as though eBay’s efforts to enforce its own policies are insufficient. For example, eBay purports to prohibit the sale of “[p]arts or accessories for assault weapons.”[9]The policy states that it extends to “[l]istings or products that mention capability with an assault weapon, even if the part of accessory fits non-assault weapons.”[10]As the Los Angeles Times recently reported, “[t]hat language leaves plenty of gray area that sellers are happy to exploit.”[11] They are reported to use techniques as simple as putting spaces in the names of gun parts manufacturers or simply not mentioning that a part can be used to construct an assault rifle.[12] As early as 2015, an investigative report identified hundreds of assault weapon parts available for sale in an extensive search of eBay listings.[13] Sellers likewise circumvent eBay’s policy by removing a single, easily-purchased part from otherwise-banned assault weapon, for example the lower receiver of a gun that can be easily purchased secondhand from a private seller through classified ads or private websites, completing the assembly of an assault weapon.[14] Clearly, eBay must do more to keep these items off its platform. 

We applaud eBay for prohibiting the sale of firearms and regularly conducting keyword searches to remove listings that include firearms.[15] However, the unrestricted sale of firearms and firearm accessories, including those used to construct assault weapons, can provide dangerous individuals with access to guns.  Effective monitoring and the suspension of accounts in violation of these policies is essential. As such, we have concerns that eBay’s efforts are falling short of what is required in light of the current crisis.

To address these concerns, please provide answers to the following questions no later than September 9, 2019:

  1. On average, how many listings for gun and/or gun accessory sales does eBay take down per month?
  2. On average, how many accounts does eBay suspend for violating the gun sale policy per month?
  3. What measures does eBay have in place to ensure that if an account is suspended for violating the gun sale policy, that seller cannot create another account under a different username? 
  4. What proactive measures does eBay take to ensure that users are not able to skirt eBay’s ban on gun sales?
  5. What policies does eBay have in place to alert law enforcement to instances of gun trafficking on its platforms?
  6. How does eBay handle reports from users alerting it to listings for gun and/or gun accessory sales on eBay? On average how many instances of gun sales are flagged by users each month? 
  7. Given that eBay searches conducted mere weeks before the attacks in El Paso and Dayton yielded results for high-capacity magazines and bump stocks,[16] please describe in detail what new measures eBay will implement to ensure these products are kept off its platform.

Sincerely,

 

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