By Peyton Reed

 

Reliance and the expansion of technology has changed the way many small business owners operate. Increasingly, small business owners have turned to online marketplaces as a way to sell their products. In 2005 Etsy was founded, giving creators a platform to sell handmade and vintage items across the globe.[1] Etsy shops have popped up at a consistent rate—and from 2019 to 2020, the number of sellers operating Etsy shops nearly doubled.[2] Etsy sellers offer a variety of goods, a few particular categories of products available on Etsy shops is a cause of concern—gun accessories and parts.

 

Selling guns, firearm parts, and accessories for assault weapons is generally prohibited on Etsy.[3] However, Etsy allows the sale of some gun accessories as long as they are either “not affixed to the gun, or are purely cosmetic or decorative in nature.”[4] This includes products like gun cases, holsters, scopes and stocks. Etsy also bans the sale of toy guns that resemble real firearms.[5] Fake guns are allowed to be sold “if it is unlikely to be mistaken for a real firing weapon by an average person.”[6] Etsy’s weapons policy tasks the seller with ensuring they comply with the state’s weapons laws.[7]This policy, without any real enforcement, is essentially just a safeguard to shield Etsy from liability if and when an Etsy seller ignores state law.

 

On Etsy, there were at least 17 shops selling either high-capacity magazines or couplers in early February.[8] Magazines feed ammunition into the fire arm, and high-capacity magazines have more than 10 rounds of ammunition.[9] Couplers are attachment parts for guns, usually used with semi-automatic and automatic assault rifles, that connect multiple magazines together.[10] They allow the users to reload bullets faster.[11] It seems like Etsy is taking some measures to prevent these listings. If you directly search the term “coupler,” Etsy shows no results. However, if you search terms like “mag” or “ar-15,” couplers start to pop up after some scrolling. After pressure from TheMarkup, a non-profit news source that specifically investigates technology, Etsy removed some of the listings for magazines, but left up the couplers.[12]

 

One Etsy shop, FlexCoupler, sells three different coupler options that are 3D printed. [13]  Quite a few Etsy shops sell imitation guns, but most of them seem to have an orange tip to signal they are fake. Etsy’s Weapons policy requires all imitation guns to adhere to 15 CFR § 272.3—which requires a permanent blaze orange cap on the guns.[14] The shop YourCustomStuff sells cosplay guns with removable orange safety caps.[15] These removable caps seem to directly conflict the Etsy Weapons policy. Even several of the review photos have pictures of the replica guns with the safety caps removed.[16]

 

Etsy is not the only platform struggling to enforce their own policies. Google, Facebook and Amazon have all faced similar issues recently.[17] In response to the insurrection at the Capitol, Etsy posted a blog condemning the acts and reaffirming their commitment to providing a safe marketplace.[18] The blog also stressed the importance of community reporting to alert Etsy about any violations.[19] It will be interesting to watch how Esty continues to attempt to enforce their policies as their platform continues to grow.

 

[1] Etsy, https://www.etsy.com/about (last visited Mar. 10, 2021).

[2] Craig Smith, 70 Etsy Stats and Facts (2021) | By the Number, DMR (Mar. 2, 2021), https://expandedramblings.com/index.php/etsy-statistics/#:~:text=Number%20of%20active%20Etsy%20users,2018%3A%2039.4%20million.

[3] Our House Rules: Weapons, Etsy, https://www.etsy.com/legal/policy/weapons/207958817249 (last updated Nov. 20, 2020).

[4] Id.

[5] Id.

[6] Id.

[7] Id.

[8] Maddy Varner, For Sale on Etsy: Greeting Cards and … Gun Parts?, The Markup (Feb. 2, 2021),  https://themarkup.org/news/2021/02/02/for-sale-greeting-cards-and-gun-parts.

[9] Assault Weapons and Large Capacity Magazines, EFSGV, https://efsgv.org/learn/policies/assault-weapons-and-large-capacity-magazines/#:~:text=buy%20back%20programs.-,A%20large%20capacity%20magazine%20is%20a%20magazine%20used%20in%20any,100%20%E2%80%94without%20having%20to%20reload (last updated July 2020).

[10] Magpul, https://magpul.com/maglinkcoupler-pmag30genm2moe-genm3.html?mp_global_color=118 (last visited Mar. 10, 2021).

[11] Id.

[12] Varner, supra note 8.

[13] FlexCoupler, Etsy, https://www.etsy.com/shop/FlexCoupler (last visited Mar. 10, 2021).

[14] Etsy, supra note 3; Approved Markings, 15 CFR § 272.3 (2020).

[15] YourCustomStuff, Etsy, https://www.etsy.com/shop/YourCustomStuff (last visited Mar. 10, 2021).

[16] Id.

[17] Jeremy B. Merrill, Tech Firms Profited from Far-Right Militia Content Despite Ban on “ThreePercenters,” The Markup (Jan. 21, 2021), https://themarkup.org/news/2021/01/21/tech-firms-profited-from-far-right-militia-content-despite-ban-on-three-percenters.

[18] Josh Silverman, Zero Tolerance for Hate, Etsy (Jan. 12, 2021), https://blog.etsy.com/news/2021/zero-tolerance-for-hate/?ref=press_blog_title.

[19] Id.

Image Source: “FN SCAR Assault Rifle (Light) 5.56 NATO” by brian.ch is licensed under CC BY 2.0

 

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