Should Facebook Allow Businesses To Give Away Guns?

    April 30, 2013
    Chris Crum

Pennsylvania gun store Pittsburgh Tactical Firearms was running a giveaway for an AR-15 on Facebook, when the social network shut it down without warning.

Should gun sellers be able to run promotions for guns on Facebook? Let us know what you think in the comments.

Few things are causing more arguments these days than guns, and major Internet companies have made it more difficult for gun sellers than for most types of businesses to get their products in customers’ hands. Facebook is no exception.

In this case, Facebook shut down the store’s entire page, though as pictured above, the store has another one that is currently running. That one, however, is focused on survival courses.

According to The Blaze, the contest had been running for a couple months before Facebook shut down the page, along with another page the store had tried to replace it with. The Blaze interviewed the store’s Erik Lowry:

“I still don’t know what’s going on,” Lowry told The Blaze in a phone interview.

Lowry said three days ago he awoke to calls and emails from fans asking where his Facebook page had gone. Lowry used the page to keep Pittsburgh Tactical Firearm’s more than 27,000 followers updated on store and stock information and Second Amendment news.

Lowry has reportedly been sending Facebook message after message without response, though Voativ recently ran an article about gun giveaways on the social network, which shared a statement from a company spokesperson, saying, “Our Ad Guidelines prohibit promotion of the sale of weapons and the Ad Guidelines apply to pages with commercial content on them. Ads may not promote the sale or use of weapons, ammunition, or explosives.”

Lowry thinks the article is what led Facebook to take notice.

In an update, Vocativ shared another quote from Facebook: “Facebook strives to create a safe and trusted environment for everyone that uses our service.”

Facebook’s guidelines in this area haven’t always been the same. In fact, an update in 2011 lifted blanket prohibition of promotions (including give-aways) for tobacco, dairy, gambling, prescription drugs, gasoline, and yes, firearms, as reported by InsideFacebook.

As Josh Constine wrote in that article, “This does not make these kinds of promotions or sweepstakes legal — it merely means Facebook will differ to local laws rather than enforce its own.”

And in some places, such giveaways are legal.

Somewhere along the way, Facebook began taking a different approach. Facebook’s Ad Guidelines can be found here. The relevant section simply states, “Ads may not promote the sale or use of weapons, ammunition, or explosives.” The Pages Guidelines also clearly say, “Ads and commercial content (including Page post content) are subject to the Advertising Guidelines.”

Facebook is far from the only Internet company to have gun-related restrictions in its terms. Earlier this year, for example, Groupon decided to pull all gun-related deals. This caused a significant amount of controversy.

Michael Cargill, a gun rights activist, concealed handgun instructor, and owner of Central Texas Gun Works, called for a nationwide boycott of Groupon, saying his contract with the company had been “abruptly terminated”, after then Groupon CEO Andrew Mason “decided the company would no longer associate with any business related to firearms,” according to shooting sports news site Ammoland.

Last year, Google stirred up some similar controversy when it removed guns from shopping results. Additionally, Google has strict terms prohibiting guns and gun-related products in AdWords.

Are these companies making the right call when it comes to guns? Share your thoughts in the comments.