Senate Democrats are now seeking revenge on behalf of their friends in Silicon Valley. Just days after Armslist filed a lawsuit against Facebook and Instagram over being deplatformed, Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) introduced legislation “to hold accountable online gun marketplaces that allow illegal gun sales to be conducted on their platforms.”
The legislation, dubbed “The Accountability for Online Firearms Marketplaces Act,” specifically named Armslist as a reason to repeal Section 230 protections for online marketplaces that market firearms and accessories.
“The Accountability for Online Firearms Marketplaces Act would clarify Section 230 to ensure that the law’s blanket liability shield does not apply to online firearms marketplaces,” a press release from Feinstein’s office explained. “In enacting Section 230, Congress did not intend to grant a sweeping liability shield to all companies, including firearms marketplaces, merely because they operate in cyberspace. Under the Accountability for Online Firearms Marketplaces Act, online firearms marketplaces will no longer enjoy sweeping, blanket immunity—a change which will help take guns out of the hands of dangerous persons seeking to evade background checks and other gun safety measures. ”
The senators cite an incident where private party transactions were facilitated through the online platform as a reason to repeal Section 230 protections for similar websites.
In 2012, Radcliffe Franklin Haughton purchased a NP-40 semiautomatic pistol and three fourteen-round magazines from an unlicensed seller on Armslist even after his wife obtained a restraining order that banned him from purchasing a firearm. He later used that gun to murder his estranged wife, Zina Daniel Haughton, and two of her co-workers, in front of their daughter.
Haughton’s daughter filed a civil lawsuit against Armslist alleging that Armslist facilitated unlawful conduct. Without even considering the merits of her claims, the Wisconsin Supreme Court dismissed the case under Section 230. The court’s decision in Daniel v. Armslist swept so broadly as to cover websites intentionally designed to encourage and facilitate firearms trafficking.
There are a couple of issues with the senators’ assumptions. In Wisconsin, private party transfers are entirely legal. Buyers and sellers are not required to go to an FFL to carry out transactions. PPTs are legal as long as the seller knows the buyer isn’t a prohibited possessor or has reason to believe the buyer is unable to lawfully purchase or possessor a firearm.
A similar outcome could have taken place if the buyer and seller met each other through mutual friends or through a paper flyer on a post office bulletin board. How the buyer and seller find each other doesn’t remove the seller’s legal liability to know if the seller is a prohibited person.
Removing 230 protections for firearms-related websites like Armslist doesn’t address prohibited individuals from obtaining firearms. All it does is shift legal liability from the seller to the marketplace’s owner.
This move is another step in anti-gun politicians’ attacks on private party transfers. Doing away with the ability to conduct PPTs without a background check harms the law-abiding. It means domestic violence victims could face legal ramifications for borrowing a firearm from a friend when they fear for their lives. It means fathers and sons could face prosecution for lending firearms while hunting.
These moves only make it more difficult for the law-abiding to obtain and possess firearms. Criminals will always have the black market… because they don’t abide by laws.