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Not Business as Usual: Etsy Now Bans Gun Parts

By: Peter Suciu

American e-commerce website Etsy, which focuses on handmade as well as vintage items, expanded its ban of weapons to include all gun parts and accessories that "attach" to firearms. The global online marketplace has already banned the sale of guns and most gun parts, but announced that it is "expanding this enforcement."

In a statement last month, the company said, "As of May 25, 2021, we will no longer accommodate any gun parts or accessories that attach to a firearm. We take protecting our marketplace very seriously and work hard to balance the enforcement of our policies with the unique variety of handmade items our sellers contribute to the marketplace."

Etsy joins a growing list of online retailers that have banned many firearms accessories.

Auction site eBay has largely banned all firearms and most receivers as well as frames, kits used to create firearms, flash suppressors, and sears and magazines that accept more than 10 rounds. Ebay, however, still allows en bloc clips, barrels that are least 18 inches for shotguns and 16 inches for rifles, bolts, choke tubes, slides, hammers, and trigger accessories. Retail giant Amazon also allows many accessories.

Thus, with the new regulations, Etsy has surpassed Amazon and eBay in what isn't allowed.

Some sellers have already expressed concerns as to what is allowed – and by most accounts if it can attach to a firearm it is banned from the retailer. That includes wooden grips for pistols or rifles.

One seller, noted, "We sell decorative pistol grips for 1911 pistols. We are a small shop making a high quality product in the U.S.A. We put a great deal of care into making these from design, material selection, machining all the way through to hand finishing."

The retailer, however, responded that it "can no longer accommodate these products in our marketplace."

According to Etsy's rules, the sale of the following is prohibited: Guns and firearms, including individual parts;

Gun and firearm accessories, including those that affix to the gun in any way; Cannons; Live, blank and inert ammunition, including empty casings, shells, hulls; Silencers and suppressors; Speedloaders; and Directions for 3D printing firearms.

Likewise, replicas and other "look-alike guns," including toys and airsoft guns, BB guns, and any imitation firearms that fires metal BBs or projectiles is banned. Where the rules become a bit more complex is that "unrealistic" imitation firearms may qualify for sale if it is unlikely to be mistaken for a real firing weapon by the average person. That includes toy guns, including cap guns and water guns, as well as airsoft guns with a permanent blaze orange barrel marking, or a permanent blaze orange barrel plug. Non-scale, non-operational guns, like fantasy, miniature, and cosplay guns are also allowed to add to the confusion.

Etsy has a bit of a confusing weapon policy as hunting knives are allowed if they are "certain ceremonial knives" but bayonets and "any knife intended for use as a weapon" is banned!

Gun-Like Products

In many ways Etsy's policies could be akin to the TSA, which has taken issue with objects that even remotely look like a gun. According to online reports, some sellers have said they received a notification from Etsy despite the fact that items they sell are not in fact "gun accessories."

"I sell cufflinks that have shotgun shell caps. I also sell tie clips that have a small image of a shotgun on them," one seller noted. "Their email mentions gun parts but are they going to distinguish between things that are actually part of a weapon and things that are decorative jewelry? We need some clarification here, Etsy!!!"

While the company hasn't responded to every seller, it has noted that items may be reviewed on a case-by-case basis. Likewise, it has stated that storage items for firearms may be sold if they're not attached to a weapon, and that may include cases and racks or holsters.

The policy may be confusing and many long time sellers may not agree with it, yet the company's decision is really no different from a "no shoes, no service" policy many retailers already maintain.

"Overall, Etsy can run its business and set its policies for its seller members in any way it likes," explained technology industry analyst Charles King of Pund-IT.

"However, the company's explanation for its change in policy: '... we regularly revisit our policies and make adjustments in accordance with industry, legal, and regulatory standards,' offers little in the way of clarity for small businesses trying to understand why the work they've done and products they've produced for years are suddenly prohibited," King told GPM.

Whether the policy will be good or bad for the company's bottom line also has yet to be seen. It is unlikely few would have abandoned the site for allowing firearms related products.

“This is entirely suppositional, but events, like recent mass shootings or the NRA's setbacks in its bankruptcy plans may have led Etsy's management to decide that discomfiting a few hundred or thousand member dealers of controversial 'gun accessories' was worth the PR or other gain of banning those goods," added King. "It's worth noting that while other Etsy vendors may applaud or disparage the company's decision, the same thing could happen to them if or  whenever Etsy chooses."

Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers, and websites. He regularly writes about military small arms and is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.com.

 
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