Facebook decided – in the name of safety – that they would ban any ads for “accessories such as gun safes, vests and gun holsters in the US,” according to a blog post posted by the company.
The ad ban comes just weeks after a record-breaking year for gun sales closed out. More than 21 million background checks were conducted for the sale of a firearm and NSSF estimates that 8.4 million people purchased a firearm for the first time. It’s not just guns that are being sold in record number to these first-time buyers, it’s also everything that goes with firearm ownership – from ammunition to safes.
Not Safe Rhetoric
Now, Facebook believes that ads promoting safe firearm storage must be yanked at a time when there is record firearm ownership and these new owners need to know their safe storage options in the home. The ad ban will be in place through the inauguration week, sparked by an article from Buzzfeed that accused the social media giant of pairing ads for safes, holsters, body armor and other “military-related paraphernalia” with Facebook users who engaged with posts that were considered “election misinformation” surrounding the melee at the U.S. Capitol.
Buzzfeed was tipped off by Tech Transparency Project, which made the broad overreach that anyone who interacted with one of these Facebook election posts a “domestic terrorist.”
That’s a bold claim to make about anyone who purchased a firearm in 2020 and happened to interact with a Facebook post. Just the rough back-of-the-napkin math shows that this is a gross overgeneralization. In addition to the 21 million background checks for gun purchases, 8.4 million people purchases a gun for the first time, at least 40 percent of gun purchases in 2020 were by women and the largest increase from 2019 to 2020 of any demographic group purchasing firearm was among African-Americans.
Juxtapose that against the estimated 5,000 who attended the protest on the National Mall and that equals Tech Transparency Project and Facebook labeling law-abiding citizens who had nothing to do with the violence at the U.S. Capitol as domestic terrorists.
Real Solutions. Safer Communities®
The firearm industry has campaigned to promote safe firearm storage in the home. More than 20 years ago, firearm manufactures began proactively including a locking device in every firearm sold at retail. NSSF leads the industry’s Project ChildSafe® program, part of the firearm industry’s Real Solutions. Safer Communities® campaign.
Project ChildSafe which partners with 15,000 law enforcement agencies in all 50 states. That campaign has resulted in over 38 million free firearm safety kits, including a locking device, distributed free through communities across America. When properly installed, that locking device renders a firearm inoperable. It’s a basic level of safety every firearm owner should consider.
The industry knows, however, that a cable-locking device might not be the most practical option for everyone. Each firearm owner should evaluate their safe firearm storage needs, even as families grow and change. For some, a cable locking device might meet their needs, but others might opt for small safes, electronic combination safes or large safes that can hold multiple firearms.
Facebook’s ad ban denies their users, undoubtedly the majority of whom are among those 8.4 million first-time gun buyers, the information they need to make an informed decision to lock their firearm when not in use.
Facebook chose “woke politics” over basic gun safety to score political points. This is beyond irresponsible and NSSF believes Facebook should immediately reverse this decision. Firearm safety in the home, the safety of children and the safety of those who should not have access to a firearm, is too great of an issue to politicize and score cheap points. Safe firearm storage was one of those issues upon which all sides agreed.
Facebook’s weaponization of safe firearms storage is more than regrettable. It is dangerous. Choosing to satisfy media mob bullying over true safety isn’t making anyone safer. Facebook’s failure in this instance targets more than makers of these safes. It targets all gun owners – painting them with their broad brush and condemning them as guilty by association – however loose that association might be.
Larry Keane is SVP for Government and Public Affairs, Assistant Secretary and General Counsel of the National Shooting Sports Foundation.