back to article eBay rethinks firearms policy

After learning that items purchased on eBay may have been used in the Virginia Tech shootings this past April, the popular online auction site has revised its policy on firearms, weapons, and knives. On April 16, in Blacksburg, Virginia, a student at Virginia Tech University killed 32 people and wounded 25 before committing …


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  1. Rob

    they didnt already?

    surely: "firearms, ammunition & parts" on the list of things you can't sell covers it?

    it just seemed odd that they'd feel the need to list every part by name..

  2. Shaun

    it will also ban the listing of any part that's used in the firing of a gun

    Such as fingers!

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Of Two Minds

    I have purchased rare, out of production brass ammunition casings on eBay and will miss the ability to do so again. However, even though I am against this decision and will argue that violent criminals will use other just as convenient and even more anonymous means to acquire weapons, it is eBay's right to do so as they see fit.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Morale Highground

    Out of how many auctions of such items have caused similar events.

    I guess none.

    Seems a little O.T.T.

    I can understand why eBay have done this, but as mentioned in other comments some people are purchasing these parts for historical or even as part of a hobby but now are all going to be penalised for 1 event.

    I'm not trying to detract from the terrible events of that day, but could you see a shop keeper closing his store down just because he sold someone (who had a licence to purchase equipment and own that weapon) the parts and sundries for it?

    Didnt think so.

  5. Alan Donaly

    I never thought of it

    This always struck me as one of those purchases

    that if you made it would come with an ATF agent

    attached no guns but accessories used to be

    OK not surprising really it is hard on collectors

    but they are not without their other venues to use.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Perfect business opportunity

    In the relatively good word-of-mouth community of firearms, a company specializing in the legal items E-bay just chose to decline for political or just as likely overly cautious of litigation reasons probably could do just fine.

    Big enough market to not be a niche, but small enough to not need overwhelming resources to pull it off.

  7. J


    "Such as fingers!"

    I think they've banned the sale of body parts and the like from the get go...

  8. Tim


    eBay obviously makes so much money that they don't want the revenue generated by firearms-related parts. Time to buy their stock...

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Since anything, anything at all, somebody at some time or other, let's ban EVERYTHING from eBay!

    Heard the one about the woman who tried to win a contest drinking water, and died from water overdose? Let's ban sales of WATER!!

    eBay should take a deep breath, step back, and think, what are we doing, just selling stuff, or trying to keep deadly weapons away from criminals. If the latter, they should just close up shop. For another example, autos kill people all the time, they should (following their logic) terminate all car sales.

    It's wack-a-doo time!!

  10. Brian Miller

    Magazines are easy to buy

    Magazines for guns are easy to buy, especially the 10-round capacity that eBay *used* to allow to be sold on their site. Come on! This stuff is ridiculously easy to acquire locally, either from any gun shop or individual.

  11. Eric


    I have used eBay in the past to purchase parts and accessories for my guns and will greatly miss the ability. It was cheap, convenient, and with the right seller, quick shipping. When will the fascists at eBay learn that they can't police the world? Why hurt the normal, law-abiding citizens because of the actions of one crazed nut? Don't they realize that all they are doing is hurting their business because loyal customers, like myself, must now go elsewhere? It's not like they are going to keep me from getting what I want. I guess I will have to go one of their competitors, like, instead. The only problem is that the majority of the sellers there won't take PayPal or other online pay services.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Fuck eBay

    What are they going to do about people getting killed with baseball bats? Ban all baseball related paraphenalia.

    Fucking idiots!

  13. Mark W

    Eric (& others) - why the vitriol?

    Simply put: eBay have a perfect right to define what people can and can't sell.

    If they decide not to allow people to sell firearms and munitions, body parts, small children and hardcore porn then that is up to them - particularly (and this is most likely the point) if they don't want their name dragged through the mire when some terrible tragedy befalls another US school / university / shopping mall etc. It's simply them protecting themselves from future implication as most large corporations with a worldwide presence and reputation to protect would do...

    Fair enough I say - although I'm from the UK where we don't allow people to carry guns at will (unless you live in Manchester seemingly).

    As you point out - it won't make any real difference - if you want to buy that stuff there are many other outlets that will take your money. Most of your ire seems to be directed at the fact that you can't use your paypal account - I consider it faintly ironic that without the 'eBay fascists' you would not have the paypal service that you wish to use with other vendors!

  14. Pete Slater

    Even megatron was banned

    eBay have been very tight on just what firearms related auctions they ban/remove.

    A few friends recently tried to auction the Transformer toy Masterpiece Megatron which is a robot that transforms into a oversized, but realistic looking, gun. The auctions were cancelled and removed and they were told that new firearms auction rules for eBay were the reason for it.

    Seems silly to not allow people to auction obvious pretend weapons on the site.

  15. Steve Hill


    eBay have once again missed the point, but given some of the rubbish on the site, it's hardly surprising.

    Where am I going to get the brass for my Martini-Henry now?

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Guns don't kill people, burgers do

    I think that you would make a more significant contribution to the health and safety of the average American by banning the sale of Burgers, Hot Dogs and Pizza.

  17. Nano nano

    Reduce probability

    You could look at it in the same way as the supermarkets' decision to restrict sale of paracetamol tablets - it doesn't stop someone determined, but it does place a speedbump in the way of casual or impulsive decisions to do harm.

    Wider availability of weapons means from a purely statistical standpoint that it's more likely that an ill, unstable or inappropriate person is going to have access.

  18. Rob

    Reality check

    "Why hurt the normal, law-abiding citizens because of the actions of one crazed nut?"

    Who are you talking about eBay or any western government.

    I'm a little surprised at the reactions so far, especially the knee jerk comments that slate eBay. Let's not forget that in the land of the cowering, you can get sued for just about anything, so if I were eBay I'd do the same.

    And judging by some of the comments, the only group that will really suffer are the historical collectors, so unfortunately they will have to go to a real live auction instead. The gun totting nuts have all claimed that they can source all the stuff locally just not as cheap.

  19. Oliverh

    Policing the world?

    Ebay's decision is not about policing the world! Its about staying out of a politically touchy subject! Its a bit different to corner shops selling cocaine because "its up to the user to abstain"! Legal issue, so its policed in the market place.

    Its not a legal issue, just a politcal one, so there is no relevance to "policing" anything!

    Sex toys aren't illegal, but you proabably won't catch Tesco stocking a whole section because its not something they want to be associated with.

    Apologies for the extreme (and weird!) analogies, but I think some of the comments are rather extreme (and weird!) reactions! Ebay just don't wanna play in this sandpit!

    PS Morale Highground? Is that a hill where the happy people go?

  20. Dan

    Paintball 'Guns' already banned in UK

    Paintball 'Guns's, (although Paintball Marker is the correct term,) are already banned for sale in Ebay UK, but you can buy them quite happily on Ebay US. But this is because Paintball Markers are classified as Air Weapons under UK law.

    But this means that they will undoubtedly become banned for sale on Ebay US as well as technically in the US they are classified as Firearms. Which means a loss of a market in the US Ebay for paintballers there.

    What it will result in is the same as in the UK. As we can't buy/sell paintball markers through Ebay we use paintball forums where paintballers gather. Commonly they'll sell over the forums but make the cash/item exchange at a paintball event. This is most likely what will happen with firearms if they do that on Ebay. They'll just push those people interested in these particular items to less well known markets, or other auction sites.

    Ebay's loss due to over-reaction tbh !!

  21. Jim Metz

    I'm just going to give up on ebay.

    They just don't any common sense. No one with any sense would thing eBay had anything to do with the horrible actions that day. But to try to punish all the good dealer and customers on eBay is unforgivable. That will carry blame.

  22. Gilbert Wham


    Someone (or a corporation) choosing not to trade in a particular item anymore is not 'fascism' by any stretch. You are still (unfortunately) all still able to purchase these items through other channels, yes? Well, then.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Eric, you're trying to police the world, not eBay.

    It's their site. If you don't like it go somewhere else. Stop trying to force your values on other people you hypocrite.

  24. Steve Evans

    Ah, the wonderful world of knee-jerk reactions...

    I've seen cars sold on eBay that have then gone on to kill people, be used as get-away cars, and commit speeding/parking offences.

    Oh, and some eBay supplied PCs have been used for hacking, storing kiddy porn etc.


    I'll be interested to see how this works, as I'm continually finding things with rule breaking entries (you know the type "Honda not suzuki yamaha kawasaki"), and even after reporting them, they still persist.

  25. Kate Menzies

    Fair enough

    Ebay is a private company and can sell what it likes. If the people in charge decide that they don't want to be part of gun brokering industry then fair enough. There are other places to buy such things. I am sure there would be a much larger outcry if the government forced Ebay to stop selling this stuff. Ebay aren't policing the world, they are policing themselves, and if more companies put ethics higher on the agenda then simply making more and more money I think there would be some very interesting consequences.

  26. Duncan Hothersall

    As I believe Clancy Wiggum said

    "If this is the way the wind is blowing, let it not be said that I too do not blow."

  27. Brian


    "Guns don't kill people, burgers do"

    That's the funnist thing I've heard all week!

  28. Oliverh

    Re: Eric (& others) - why the vitriol?

    "I consider it faintly ironic that without the 'eBay fascists' you would not have the paypal service that you wish to use with other vendors!"

    Whilst I agree with the sentiments of your comment, for historical accuracy, I do believe that paypal existed before ebay. They just bought it, like anything else they fancy, skype et al!

    That's not to say the irony isn't still there! "Fcuk ebay but can I still use paypal please?"

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Gun sales

    I suppose some moron at eBay thought that banning these kinds of sales will suppress the gun violence in Iraq. Guns don't kill people, I do!

  30. Andy S


    Quite a lot of UK soldiers buy and sell kit using ebay. I wonder how this will affect that

    I tried to buy an assault vest that quite clearly stated in the description that the seller would throw in a couple of l85 magazines for free.

  31. Mark W

    @ Oliverh

    I bow to your superior knowledge ;)

  32. Kevin

    There is an auction site in the United States for the trading of firearms and related equipment (except fingers). They follow all applicable state and federal laws.

    So if you don't like ebay - use

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Fire sale

    I thought the punters buy / sell items and eBay merely help broker the deal. If that is the case then these items will still be for sale, just not on eBay.

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Fixing Simpsons quotes

    "If this is the way the wind is blowing, let it not be said that I too do not blow."

    Right quote, wrong character. That was Mayor Quimby.

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Okay, sure, so clips are out....

    What will the policy be on RAF attack helicopters?

  36. Ross

    Re "What will the policy be on RAF attack helicopters?"

    They cost twice as much and you have to assemble them yourself.

    Meanwhile, back in Hazard County...

    Standard knee jerk reaction, but to be expected and as has been pointed out - it's well within their rights. Given the time it's taken to decide on the ban I presume they measured how much money they're making from that sector and decided they wouldn't miss it. It's hardly a socially concious decision is it?

  37. Dillon Pyron


    They're magazines, not clips. I have clips for my M1, but magazines for my 1911.

    I buy almost everything from Cheaper Than Dirt.

    I guess eBay will shortly be banning the sale of OEM Microsoft products. When I bought my W2K CD, it came with a 32MB DIMM, that may or may not have worked.

  38. Eric

    Sorry for the knee jerk reaction...but...

    I just find it annoying to me, in particular, because I am one of those people most directly affected by their decision. I can appreciate everyone's point of view here, even eBay's business perspective. The comment about eBay buying Paypal (like everything else), I found particularly amusing. It just aggravates me that eBay used to be an open forum to sell (almost) anything. That is what got them to the top of the intenet marketplace and I, myself, have been active in that climb to the top. I've been a member for 8 years! My favorite is when they ban an auction because someone forgot to put one of their key words in there to warn the buyer of something or another. Anymore, they come up with reasons to ban this or that because it is potentially offensive to someone, can be used in a wrongful way, or just plain controversial. Isn't that best left to the Republicans? ;)

  39. Ian Ferguson


    Quite frankly I don't see why anyone should be allowed to buy or sell items which have the SOLE purpose of killing other people... but who am I to question the wisdom of Americans.

  40. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Knee-jerk reaction

    The knee-jerk reaction isn't e-Bay's. It's "The American Public"'s or "The American Media"'s. If "they" kicked up a hoo-ha about a car bought off e-Bay which was then involved in a fatal collision, e-Bay might start to consider controlling the sale of cars via their website. "Campus shootings", however, are a cause for hand-wringing and recrimination (pretty much regardless of which Western nation they happen in), whereas automobile-related fatalities are part of the cost of doing business.

    e-Bay are taking a rational business decision based on recognising the irrationality of the masses.

  41. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Free Gifts?

    In the UK it's illegal to resell tickets for football matches on the internet - someone once bought one on ebay and died of a paper cut from the ticket or something. However, a quick search of ebay will always turn up souvenir scarves for sale with free match tickets for big games.

    So, maybe you could consider selling "God Bless America" bumper stickers and include a free bullet clip, M16, trigger-finger etc...


  42. Sue Kempf

    Let ebay shoot themselves in the foot. Everyone I know is moving their auctions to Their listing fees are cheaper and they have an excellent feedback system.

  43. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Killing other people?

    Ian says

    "Quite frankly I don't see why anyone should be allowed to buy or sell items which have the SOLE purpose of killing other people... "

    But of course most guns don't have the SOLE purpose of killing other people.

    Still as others have pointed out there are other auction sites and in the UK we have to finalise the sale at a face to face meeting - usually in the back corner of a supermarket car park!

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