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Media Matters: “Online gun retailer advertises on social media platform favored by white nationalists”

As many Americans shelter in place to flatten the curve, at least one gun retailer has decided to take this moment to market its merchandise on a platform “favored by white nationalists.” According to Media Matters, advertisements for online gun retailer Guns.com are appearing on social media site Gab with copy encouraging users to “load up and support Gab.” As noted in the report, Guns.com sells “assault weapons, shotguns, and pistols, as well as high-capacity ammunition magazines.” 

Media Matters’s piece by Cydney Hargis, which can be read in full here, tells the full story: 

  • The ads, which read “Load Up and Support Gab,” take users to a page where they can search for guns, used guns, ammo, and accessories. The ads were viewed by Media Matters on March 17th, and they have been “repeatedly displayed” on Gab’s “trends” page. 
  • Gab was founded in 2016 “in reaction to social media companies’ pledges to remove hate speech, extremism, and harassment from their platforms. The website’s explicit goal was to provide safe haven to those whose extremist rhetoric had gotten them removed from platforms like Twitter.” After launching, the website quickly became “riddled with anti-Semitic and pro-Nazi statements.”
  • Gab’s history underlines how dangerous running these ads on a hate-driven site can be: “The gunman who carried out the anti-Semitic 2018 mass shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh was a frequent Gab user who routinely posted anti-Semitic images, suggested President Donald Trump was ‘was too accommodating of Jewish influence,’ and called Jewish people ‘children of Satan.’ Shortly before he carried out his attack, the gunman posted on Gab, ‘Screw your optics, I’m going in.’” 

This isn’t the first interaction between the gun industry and Gab. Last September, America’s 1st Freedom––the “Official Journal of the NRA” — featured an article that praised Gab as a “friendlier” platform, saying, “There are many other social-media venues on the digital landscape, including options like AllSocial, MeWe and Gab. Most of these networks promise little censorship.”

The hate speech that Gab facilitates lies at the deadly intersection between hate and guns in America. In an average year, over 10,300 hate crimes in the United States involve a firearm — more than 28 each day — and reports indicate that hate crimes are on the rise. Recent deadly hate-driven mass shootings include the 2018 Tree of Life synagogue shooting that killed 11 people and wounded six more, the 2016 Pulse nightclub shooting that killed 49 and wounded 53 more, and the 2015 Mother Emanuel Charleston, SC shooting that killed nine. Despite these tragedies, in most of the U.S., some people convicted of hate crimes can still legally buy or possess guns.