Advertisements for online gun retailer Guns.com are appearing on a social media website favored by white nationalists, with the ads encouraging users to “load up and support Gab.”
Gab was founded in 2016 by Andrew Torba 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. While Torba insisted Gab users are merely exercising their First Amendment rights, the website quickly become riddled with anti-Semitic and pro-Nazi statements.
For instance, 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.”
Guns.com started in 2011 as a pro-gun news website where “gun enthusiasts could come for news, product reviews, and the latest information on the issues that impact gun owners.” It evolved into an “online marketplace” that it said would rectify the “cumbersome, slow, and confusing” process of buying guns online. The website sells assault weapons, shotguns, and pistols, as well as high-capacity ammunition magazines that hold up to 75 rounds.
The sponsored content on Gab takes users to a page where they can search for “Guns,” “Used guns,” “Ammo,” and “Accessories.” According to the webpage, the customer buys the firearm online and Guns.com promises to “do the legwork” in shipping the firearm or ammunition to the closest federally licensed gun store to the buyer, where the buyer will fill out a background check and pick up their purchase.