Technology

EBay merchants still sell assault rifle add-ons despite ban

AR-15s are largely unlawful to sell in California. So are high-capacity magazines that may maintain greater than 10 bullets. But must you handle to get your fingers on each, you’ll be able to reload them sooner than ever with simply $10.99 and some clicks on EBay.

That’s the promise of the “Universal Magazine Speed Loader For Rifle,” a product meant to chop down on how lengthy it takes to fit ammunition right into a gun journal.

Until final week, the velocity loader was accessible for buy on the e-commerce platform, with free delivery from Shanghai. Fifty-nine items had already been bought.

Although it marketed the product as common, the submit helpfully included an inventory of firearms it could possibly be used to load. That listing consisted overwhelmingly of assault rifles, together with the AR-15, AK-47, M16, AK-74, HK33, G36 and Steyr AUG. The important picture additionally confirmed the loader getting used to fill a high-capacity journal.

This is all despite EBay guidelines that forbid the sale of “parts and accessories for assault weapons” — a coverage {that a} spokesperson stated extends to “parts designed for assault weapons … even if they can also fit non-assault weapons” — in addition to all high-capacity magazines and any firearm elements which might be banned in California.

After The Times introduced the velocity loader to EBay’s consideration, it was taken down, together with eight different product listings that the company decided have been in violation of its insurance policies.

Three extra listings for the very same velocity loader stay on-line, with 672 items bought amongst them. (These listings don’t specify compatibility with assault weapons however still present the device getting used with high-capacity magazines.)

Under California regulation, whether or not a given gun is an assault weapon is dependent upon how it’s configured; the identical rifle might be rendered authorized or not with the straightforward swap of a grip, stock or different elements. Determining whether or not a component or accent is supposed for assault weapons, subsequently, shouldn’t be simple.

In making that decision, EBay’s spokesperson stated that the platform weighs such components because the “language used in the listing” and “how the manufacturers market the product.”

Yet amid a nationwide escalation within the debate over gun management after military-style semiautomatic rifles have been used to kill a complete of 35 individuals in Buffalo, N.Y., Uvalde, Texas and Tulsa, Okla., merchandise as flagrant of their objective because the velocity loader proceed to slide by.

For EBay, it’s not a brand new drawback.

In 2019, following the same string of mass shootings in Gilroy, Calif., El Paso and Dayton, Ohio, a Times investigation discovered objects together with assault rifle magazines, collapsible shares and bayonets accessible for buy on the location, typically in violation of platform insurance policies.

Partially in response to The Times’ reporting, a gaggle of Senate Democrats despatched a letter to EBay’s then-chief govt urging him to extra strongly police the sale of weapons and gun equipment. EBay subsequently modified its rule from banning “products that mention capability with an assault weapon” to the present, extra expansive prohibition on “parts and accessories for assault weapons.”

Yet virtually three years later, the location still hosts quite a few listings that seem to violate this stricture.

Some sellers are brazen about it.

An EBay auction for a firearm accessory is seen on a computer this month in Los Angeles.

An EBay itemizing for a velocity loader exhibits a high-capacity journal and lists the names of a number of suitable forms of assault weapons.

(Keith Bedford / Los Angeles Times)

One, the “AR-15 Super Slim Fixed Rear Sight – Black,” is presently featured on EBay’s touchdown web page for “Hunting Scope Mounts & Accessories” as the location’s fourth-highest-rated product within the class.

Another, a Thordsen-brand “Featureless AR15 Rifle Stock,” had a beginning bid of $79 and free pickup accessible in Redwood City. (It has since been eliminated.) According to the Thordsen itemizing for the same product, “featureless” gun elements modify assault weapons to be compliant with state legal guidelines, reminiscent of by changing an adjustable stock with a hard and fast one. In 2019, EBay stated that featureless elements have been banned.

Other listings are extra delicate.

Some don’t title a selected gun, solely a class. A skull-shaped rubber loop that’s imagined to make it simpler to swap out used magazines is dubbed the “AR Skull Tactical Mag Pull,” and a number of 3-D-printed couplers — an adjunct that connects two completely different magazines collectively — embody “AR,” “AK” or “M4” of their title. (The M4 is a shortened model of the M-16.)

A product known as the “Lets Go Brandon AR magazine coupler” ships from Costa Mesa for slightly below $20. EBay’s guidelines require listings for firearm elements and equipment to specify the kind of gun they match, however the vendor of the “Let’s Go Brandon” coupler seems to have averted this requirement by itemizing the merchandise within the class for comics and graphic novels. (Contacted by The Times, the vendor stated EBay’s system had auto-generated the faulty class. He deleted the itemizing.) Other objects apparently in violation of EBay’s firearm guidelines have been listed beneath navy surplus collectibles.

Two posts promoting package deal units of AR sights, grips, slings and stands don’t specify AR-15 compatibility, both, however embody pictures of rifles that — given their detachable magazines and pistol grips — can be unlawful in California beneath the state’s assault weapons ban. (A federal choose struck down the ban in 2021 nevertheless it stays in pressure pending appellate overview.) The Times requested EBay about one among these listings, and it was taken down. The second stays up.

Other listings substitute technical specs for gun mannequin names. Many embody the numbers .223 and 5.56, which symbolize the calibers of cartridges developed to be used within the AR-15 and M-16. Mark Oliva, director of public affairs for the National Shooting Sports Foundation, instructed The Times in 2019 that “most people identify the .223 or 5.56 with an AR-15.” Another frequent quantity is 7.62, the usual diameter of AK-47 cartridges.

While such jargon might render listings semi-opaque to these unfamiliar with weapons, descriptions of equal merchandise on different e-commerce websites lay issues out extra explicitly.

An EBay itemizing for a 10-round 5.56 / .223 journal manufactured by the company Adventure Line makes no reference to AR-15s or M16s. But on EveryGunPart.com, a thirty-round model of the identical journal is straightforwardly labeled an “Adventure Line M16/AR15 Magazine.”

A TPM Arms California-legal featureless rifle

A TPM Arms California-legal featureless rifle is displayed on the market on the company’s sales space on the Crossroads of the West gun present final year in Costa Mesa.

(AFP/Getty Images)

So much providing a 10-round 5.56 / .223 Colt journal additionally doesn’t cite any particular weapons, but an virtually equivalent product is particularly labeled as being for AR-15s on GunShowMags.com.

And though an Armaspec-brand prolonged journal launch advertises compatibility with 5.56, .223 and seven.62 cartridges on EBay, the equal itemizing on Armaspec’s personal web site says upfront that it’s “compatible with most AR-15 … receivers.” (EBay eliminated the Colt and Armaspec merchandise when requested about them.)

Contacted through EBay message, the vendor of the Adventure Line journal, which has since been bought, stated they believed the product was not in violation of the platform’s insurance policies as a result of the ammunition it holds is common with hunters and sport shooters. The vendor, who didn’t present their title, disputed the characterization of firearms, together with an AR-15 they personal and use for goal apply, as assault weapons. ” I can put a bunch of stuff on my rifles to make them appear to be an assault rifle, however they’ll by no means be an ‘assault rifle,’” they wrote. (Under California regulation, placing elements reminiscent of a pistol grip or folding stock on an AR-15 with a detachable journal makes it an assault rifle.)

Elsewhere on the location, The Times discovered a 7.62 silencer entrance cap and a 5.56 suppressor finish cap. Silencers and flash suppressors are particularly banned beneath EBay’s coverage. EBay eliminated the entrance cap after The Times introduced it to the company’s consideration; the suppressor finish cap has been bought.

As makes an attempt by social media platforms to police extremist content material and viral misinformation illustrate all too properly, content material moderation is a tough factor to do at scale. EBay’s consultant stated that the company has already blocked greater than 1 million listings in 2022 that violated its firearms and firearm equipment coverage.

Some EBay merchants brazenly acknowledge making an attempt to keep away from detection.

One vendor, providing .223 and 5.56×45 magazines, wrote of their itemizing: “You know what platform (rifles / pistol) these are for — EBay won’t let me use those words.”

An accompanying product picture was much less delicate. The magazines, still of their unique packaging, have been clearly labeled “AR-15 Magazine.”

Someone else, placing a “custom pistol grip” up for public sale, labeled the merchandise an “enforcer type” grip “for the Chinese version of the gun designed by the famous Russian tanker whos [sic] name is not allowed on EBay” — seemingly a reference to the Type 56, a Chinese assault rifle modeled on the AK-47, and Mikhail Kalashnikov, the Soviet tank commander who developed the AK-47.

EBay didn’t answer a question about whether or not there’s an inventory of particular search phrases that it screens for within the titles, our bodies or pictures of latest listings, reminiscent of “AR-15” or “Kalashnikov.” Both of the above listings have been eliminated after The Times flagged them for EBay.

“It is unconscionable that days after multiple mass shootings have torn communities and taken the lives of innocent children and Americans, assault rifles — and attachments to make them even more dangerous — continue to be available online and just one click away,” Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), stated in an emailed assertion.

It was Menendez who led the 2019 inquiry into EBay’s dealing with of assault weapon equipment that was partly prompted by The Times’ earlier reporting on this topic.

Three years later, Menendez says the platform still isn’t doing what it must be.

“By ignoring our previous requests to enforce their policies and by effectively failing once again to police their own platforms,” he stated, “these companies continue to put people at risk.”

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