– Google Sadly Joins The Anti-Gun Brigade (Forbes, July 5, 2012):
Google is censuring information on guns and other products from Google Shopping. Sure, we know they once gave in to the Chinese government, but why are they censoring products used for self-protection by America’s gun owners?
Google announced this new policy on May 31. Now firearms manufacturers and others are pointing out Google’s hypocrisy. Meanwhile, the media has mostly ignored the story.
Ironically, Google’s own policy for “Freedom of Expression” says, “We’ve pressed governments to make combating Internet censorship a top priority in human rights and economic agendas.” And they say, “We regularly assist research efforts like the Open Net Initiative, the premier monitor of global trends on Internet censorship, by providing funds for their work.”
Maybe so, but they don’t think the Second Amendment in the Bill of Rights is acceptable in the U.S.
Specifically, they’ve banned results related to firearms and other products that they don’t deem to be “family safe.” Until recently, gun-related products appeared with other products in search results on the shopping section. Many of America’s 80 million gun owners have used Google as a powerful price-comparison tool. Not anymore.
Google’s new, anti-gun policy, assigns a “family status” to all products. Products that are “non-family safe” are blocked from Google Shopping. This includes guns, ammunition and knives, as well as vehicles, tobacco and radar scramblers.
Larry Keane, Senior Vice President & General Counsel, for the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), the trade group that represents firearm and related companies, asks, “How can a company that supports the First Amendment with such zeal be so hostile to the Second Amendment?”
Keane says, we’re “attempting to reach Google to urge the company to reconsider this discriminatory policy that is hostile to the Second Amendment. We also plan to remind the company and emphasize that firearms cannot be purchased online and be transferred directly to the purchaser. A firearm that is purchased online must be physically sent from one federal firearms licensee to another, with the latter conducting the mandatory FBI background check on the purchaser (represented in person) and then transferring the firearm only after the purchaser has passed a background check.”
Several years ago eBay kicked guns off its site. The eBay policy now allows the sale of “some personal defense items, such as pepper spray and mace,” as well as BB gun ammunition and some other items, but not firearms and ammunition. eBay’s policy change led to robust growth at sites that do sell guns, such as gunbroker.com. eBay, however, hasn’t changed its anti-gun policy.
These new rules from Google actually come at a time when the sales of firearms and ammunition is one of the bright spots in the U.S. economy. Firearms and ammunition sales are at all-time highs. In fact, the NSSF says firearms manufacturers increased their workforces by 30.6 percent from 2008 through 2011. This is an “overall economic impact of nearly $32 billion to the nation,” says Keane.
Smith & Wesson Holding Corporation, an American-made firearm manufacturer, announced record financial results for the fourth quarter and fiscal year ended April 30, 2012. S&W says its fourth-quarter sales were up 28 percent compared to the same period last year.
S&W has not been an exception. In general, firearms manufacturers have been beating the downturn. In another American-made example, last March Sturm, Ruger & Company, Inc. received so many orders for its firearms they “had to stop taking orders.” A notice on the company’s website stated: “Despite the company’s continuing successful efforts to increase production rates, the incoming order rate exceeds our capacity to rapidly fulfill these orders. Consequently, the company has temporarily suspended the acceptance of new orders.”
Nevertheless, Google is in the process of censoring guns from its shopping function. A search on July 5th showed guns from Remington still showing on the shopping site, but searches for “Browning shotguns,” “Springfield Armory,” and “Smith and Wesson” drew a page that says, “Your search … did not match any shopping results.
In late June HamLund Tactical, which sells firearms accessories and other items, received an email from the “Google Shopping Team” that told them its products would soon be censured. The email said, “We do not allow the promotion or sale of weapons and any related products such as ammunitions or accessory kits on Google Shopping. In order to comply with our new policies, please remove any weapon-related products from your data feed and then re-submit your feed in the Merchant Center.”
Google stated a few reasons to HamLund Tactical, such as, “1) Google Shopping should provide a positive experience to users… 2 ) Google Shopping should besafe for all users. User safety is everyone’s business, and we can’t do business with those who don’t agree…. 3) Google Shopping should comply with local laws and regulations. Many products and services are regulated by law, which can vary from country to country.”
After public criticism of Google’s dalliance with China over censoring data, it seems especially odd that Google would censor legal, and in many cases American-made, products because it doesn’t deem them to be politically correct in the U.S.
This belief actually runs counter to how Americans feel about guns. Just consider that from the mid-1980s to today America has become a mostly “shall-issue” nation with regards to concealed-carry permits. A “shall-issue” jurisdiction is one where a person must obtain a permit to carry a concealed handgun, but where the granting of such permits is subject only to meeting certain established criteria. Shall-issue laws typically prevent local governments from arbitrarily refusing to give permits.
In fact, 41 states now have right-to-carry laws (RTC) and 38 had “shall-issue” laws. Also, a total of 49 states had laws that, to varying degrees, solidified citizens’ right to carry certain concealed firearms in public, either without a permit or after obtaining a permit. Only Illinois stops citizens to protect themselves when out of their homes.
For example, Florida has issued more than two million concealed-carry licenses since adopting its law in 1987, and had 919,831 licensed permit holders as of March 2012. Nationally, the NSSF estimates there are 6.8 million concealed-carry holders today. This is up from about one million in the mid-1980s.
According to Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, the number of privately owned guns has risen by about 100 million since the early 1990s. As the National Rifle Association continues to lobby for the right to bear arms, as of 2010, the nation’s murder rate had fallen 52 percent to a 47-year low, according to FBI statistics.
Despite all that, Google is censuring firearms and other products from its shopping function?
Even worse, given this policy of complying “with local laws and regulations” in other nations, does this precedent mean that Google’s search engine will one day be subject to the whims of Middle Eastern oligarchs and Russian presidents? Or is this just another case of a company getting so big and powerful it arrogantly forgets it’s not running a monopoly.
Keane says as much. He says Google’s “anti-gun policy has rightly caused firearms owners to reconsider having Google be their search engine of choice.” He notes that Bing.com doesn’t appear to ban firearms and ammunition.