EBay sellers still sell assault rifle add-ons despite ban

AR-15 is in many ways illegal for sale in California. As well as high-capacity magazines holding more than 10 bullets. But if you manage to get your hands on both, you can reload them faster than ever for just $10.99 and a few clicks on EBay.

That’s the promise of the “Universal Rifle Magazine Speed ​​Loader”, a product designed to reduce the time it takes to insert ammunition into a gun’s magazine.

Until last week, the speed loader was available for purchase on the e-commerce platform with free shipping from Shanghai. Fifty-nine units have already been sold.

Despite the product being advertised as being versatile, the post helpfully provided a list of firearms that could be used to charge. This list mainly consisted of assault rifles, including AR-15, AK-47, M-16, AK-74, HK33, G36 and Steyr AUG. The main photo also shows how the loader is used to fill the high capacity magazine.

And this despite the rules of EBay, according to which forbid sale of “assault weapon parts and accessories” — a policy that the spokesperson says covers “parts designed for assault weapons…even if they also fit non-assault weapons” — as well as all high-capacity magazines and any firearm components prohibited in California.

After The Times brought the speed downloader to EBay’s attention, it was removed along with eight other product listings that the company said violated its policies.

Three more listings for the exact same high-speed loader remain online, with 672 units sold among them. (These listings do not indicate assault weapon compatibility, but still show the tool being used with high-capacity magazines.)

Under California law, whether a given pistol is an assault weapon depends on how is it configured; the same rifle can be made legal or not by simply switching the grip, stock, or other components. Therefore, it is not easy to determine whether a part or accessory is intended for an assault weapon.

That being said, an EBay spokesperson said that the platform weighs factors such as “the language used in the listing” and “how manufacturers sell the product.”

However, amid a nationwide gun control debate escalating after military-grade semi-automatic rifles killed a total of 35 people in Buffalo, New York, Uvalde, Texas as well as Tulsa, Oklahoma.products as blatant in purpose as speed loaders keep slipping.

For eBay, this is not a new problem.

In 2019, after a similar series of mass shootings in Gilroy, California, El Paso and Dayton, Ohio, a Times investigation found items, including Assault rifle magazines, folding stocks and bayonets are available for purchase on the site, sometimes in violation of platform rules.

Partially in response to The Times report, a group of Democrats in the Senate sent a letter to the then chief executive of EBay, urging him to more strictly control the sale of guns and gun accessories. Subsequently, EBay changed its rule from banning “products that mention the ability to use assault weapons” to the current, broader ban on “assault weapon parts and accessories”.

However, almost three years later, the site is still hosting numerous listings that appear to violate this restriction.

Some sellers are arrogant about it.

This month in Los Angeles, you can see an EBay auction for firearms accessories on a computer.

The Speed ​​Loader listing on EBay lists a high capacity magazine and lists the names of several compatible assault weapon types.

(Keith Bedford/Los Angeles Times)

One of them, “AR-15 Super Slim Fixed Rear Sight – Black”, is currently featured on the EBay landing page under “Hunting Scope Mounts & Accessories” as the site’s fourth highest rated product in this category.

Another, Thordsen’s “faceless AR15 Rifle Stock”, had a starting price of $79 and was free to pick up in Redwood City. (It has since been removed.) According to Thordsen’s list. for the same product, “Faceless” weapon parts modify assault weapons to comply with state laws, such as replacing an adjustable buttstock with a fixed one. In 2019, EBay stated that faceless details were not allowed.

Other lists are more subtle.

Some do not name a specific weapon, only a category. A skull-shaped rubber loop that should make it easier to swap out used magazines has been dubbed the “AR Skull Tactical Mag Pull,” and several 3D-printed connectors – an accessory that connects two different magazines together – include “AR, AK, or “M4” in their name. (M-4 is a shortened version of M-16.)

A product called Lets Go Brandon AR store coupler comes from Costa Mesa for just under $20. EBay rules require listings of firearm parts and accessories to indicate the type of gun they fit, but the seller of the Let’s Go Brandon connector appears to have avoided that requirement by listing the item in the comics and graphic novels category. (In an interview with The Times, the seller said that EBay’s system automatically generated the wrong category. He deleted the list.) Other items that clearly violate EBay’s firearms rules were listed in the military surplus collectibles section.

Two posts promoting sets of scopes, grips, slings, and stands for AR also do not list AR-15 compatibility, but there are photos of rifles that, given their detachable magazines and pistol grips, would be illegal in California under a state ban. for assault weapons. . (A federal judge overturned the ban in 2021, but it remains in effect pending appeal.) The Times reached out to EBay about one of those listings, and it has been removed. The second one stays on top.

In other lists, the names of weapon models are replaced by technical characteristics. Many of these include the numbers .223 and 5.56, which are cartridge calibers designed for use in the AR-15 and M-16. Mark Oliva, director of communications for the National Shooting Sports Foundation, told The Times in 2019 that “most people identify .223 or 5.56 caliber with the AR-15.” Another common number is 7.62, the standard diameter for AK-47 cartridges.

While such jargon can make listings translucent to those unfamiliar with guns, equivalent product descriptions on other e-commerce sites make things more explicit.

The Adventure Line 10-round 5.56/.223 magazine’s EBay listing does not mention the AR-15 or M-16. But on EveryGunPart.com, the 30-round version of the same magazine is explicitly labeled “Adventure Line M16/AR15 Magazine”.

A faceless rifle authorized by TPM Arms in California.

A faceless California-legal TPM Arms rifle is up for sale at the company’s booth at last year’s Crossroads of the West gun show in Costa Mesa.

(AFP/Getty Images)

Many of the 5.56/.223 10-round Colt store listings also do not mention any specific weapon, but a nearly identical product is specifically labeled as being for the AR-15 on GunShowMags.com.

And while Armaspec’s Extended Magazine Edition advertises 5.56, .223, and 7.62 cartridge compatibility on EBay, the equivalent listing on Armaspec’s own website says it’s compatible with most AR-15 receivers. (EBay removed Colt and Armaspec products when asked about them.)

The seller of the Adventure Line magazine, which has since been sold, was contacted via an EBay message and said they believe the product does not violate platform policy as the ammunition it contains is popular with hunters and sport shooters. The unnamed seller disputed the characterization of the firearms, including the AR-15 they own and use for target shooting, as assault weapons. “I can put a lot of things on my rifles to make them look like assault rifles, but they will never be “assault rifles,” they wrote (according to California law, installing components such as a pistol grip or folding stock on an AR-15 with detachable magazine makes an assault rifle.)

Elsewhere on the site, The Times found a 7.62 front muffler cap and a 5.56 muffler end cap. Silencers and flame arresters are expressly prohibited by EBay policy. EBay removed the front cover after The Times brought it to the company’s attention; muffler cover sold.

As social media efforts to control extremist content and viral disinformation are well illustrated, content moderation is a complex task on a large scale. An EBay spokesperson said the company had already blocked more than 1 million ads in 2022 that violated its firearms and accessories policy.

Some EBay sellers openly admit that they are trying to avoid detection.

One seller offering .223 and 5.56×45 magazines wrote in his ad: “You know what platform (rifle/pistol) they are for – EBay won’t let me use those words.”

The accompanying product photo was less subtle. Magazines in their original packaging were clearly marked “AR-15 Magazine”.

Someone else auctioned off a “custom pistol grip” and called the item a “power type grip” for a Chinese version of a weapon designed by a famous Russian tanker. [sic] name not allowed on EBay” – apparently 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 did not respond to a question about whether there is a list of specific searches it checks for titles, cases or photos of new listings such as “AR-15” or “Kalashnikov”. Both of the above listings were removed after The Times flagged them for EBay.

“It’s shameless that, days after multiple mass shootings devastated communities and claimed the lives of innocent children and Americans, assault rifles – and the accessories that make them even more dangerous – are still available online and just one click away. ‘, the senator said. Robert Menendez (DN.J.) said in an emailed statement.

It was Menendez who led a 2019 investigation into EBay’s handling of assault weapon accessories, prompted in part by an earlier The Times report on the matter.

Three years later, Menendez says the platform still doesn’t work the way it should.

“By ignoring our previous requests to comply with their policies and effectively no longer in control of their own platforms,” he said, “these companies continue to put people at risk.”