Thursday, March 12, 2015

EBay Sellers Easily Skirt Rules Banning Assault Weapon Parts

EBay policy bans the sale of “parts or accessories for assault weapons,” but Reveal identified hundreds of parts available in an extensive search of listings.


For the do-it-yourself crowd, building an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle is as easy as browsing ads on eBay, the online marketplace for everything from vintage dining room sets to video games and, it turns out, assault weapon parts.

This violates eBay’s policy banning the sale of “parts or accessories for assault weapons.” The policy is closely tailored to match California law, which is among the nation’s strictest. But the company’s automated filters and user-flagging system fail to stop it.

Reveal identified hundreds of parts available for sale in an extensive search of eBay listings. There’s a financial incentive for eBay: The company charges sellers a fee for every item sold on its website. EBay doesn’t disclose in its public filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission how much revenue comes from the sale of firearms parts.

It’s illegal to buy an AR-15 in California without making specific modifications to the gun or obtaining a dangerous weapons permit from the state Department of Justice. Yet for as little as $500, anyone with an eBay account can purchase all but one of the dozen or so necessary parts.

The only missing piece of the gun – the lower receiver – can be bought secondhand from private sellers who post classified ads on other websites, such as The receiver is the only regulated part of the gun, but there are workarounds for obtaining one, too. Partially complete receivers can be purchased privately without a background check or serial number and finished by buyers themselves, or they can be built from scratch at home to sidestep having to register the finished gun.

1 comment:

  1. Oh no! People are legally buying and selling pieces of metal and plastic that are not regulated! Stop the presses!

    And how would you propose to stop this? Do we need to serialize every part? Or is there a size at which it doesn't need a serial number? And do we need a background check for each one? What about if they're packaged together? Just one check for the package deal, or one for each part? Do tell us what the system that you think properly regulates this looks like.