Senator urges EBay, Amazon and Google to restrict sales of assault-rifle parts

By JEFF BERCOVICI | Los Angeles Times | Published: August 9, 2019

(Tribune News Service) — Following news reports documenting the continued availability of gun parts and accessories on e-commerce platforms that supposedly prohibit their sale, Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) planned to send letters to the chief executives of Amazon, EBay and Google asking for internal data and better enforcement of their policies.

In the letter to EBay Chief Executive Devin Wenig, a copy of which was provided Thursday to The Times, Menendez cited a report detailing the sale of accessories and equipment clearly intended for use with military-style semiautomatic rifles like the AR-15 and AK-47 in the auction site’s marketplace, despite rules against listing such items.

“We write to urge you to immediately implement stronger measures to keep guns and gun accessory sales off your platform,” Menendez wrote. “America is in the throes of a gun violence epidemic, and it is incumbent upon corporate America to do its part to help end the carnage.”

Menendez asked Wenig to respond by Sept. 9 with answers to a list of questions about the technical safeguards used by the San Jose auction site to keep sellers from listing prohibited products and the processes it relies on to review flagged listings. He also asked Wenig to disclose how many gun-related listings EBay takes down and how many accounts it suspends per month.

The company has in the past treated that information as proprietary. A 2015 report by the investigative journalism outlet Reveal, also cited by Menendez, found hundreds of listings for assault-rifle parts for sale on EBay. When the reporter asked for data on flagged products, an EBay spokesperson declined, calling it “our secret sauce.”

“Effective monitoring and the suspension of accounts in violation of these policies is essential,” Menendez wrote. “As such, I have concerns that EBay’s efforts are falling short of what is required in light of the current crisis.”

Menendez planned to send similar letters to Amazon Chief Executive Jeff Bezos and Google Chief Executive Sundar Pichai, following a report by the Washington Post revealing recent listings on their sites for products including a 100-round ammunition drum similar to one used this month by a mass shooter in Dayton, Ohio. Both companies ban the sale of guns themselves and many gun parts and accessories, including high-capacity ammunition magazines.

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