Replica gun sold by the now-closed Columbia Bookseller and Variety Store. (Photo credit: Columbia Bookseller and Variety Store)

This story comes rather unsurprisingly from California. A bookstore by the name of Columbia Booksellers and Variety Store was forced to close both their brick-and-mortar location and their online store thanks to the tech company Square, Inc. suddenly terminating Columbia’s use of their payment processing services.

The Modesto Bee reports:

“This came out of the blue. There was no warnings, they did not call us to say, ‘Hey I think you might be in violation.’ There was nothing,” said Michael Sharps, who co-owns the store with his wife, Rosanna. “They just shut it down and said the decision is not reversible.”

Michael Sharps said they’ve kept largely the same inventory since they started, which ranges from clothing and books to era-appropriate toys and personal accessories. They also opened the business using Square, a popular point-of-sale processor that allows sellers to easily integrate other important business functions all under its platform.

So what does the culprit appear to be? The non-firing replica guns the store says they’ve always sold:

Among the shop’s merchandise from the start has been replica guns — including about 20 styles of pistols, revolvers and rifles — which are all non-firing, non-operational and cannot be modified to shoot live rounds. In essence, Sharps said, they are highly accurate-looking and fairly pricey toys meant for display.

Square, Inc., which has a longstanding aversion to anything firearm-related, wasn’t exactly forthcoming about the problem but the bookstore owners kept digging for answers. This is what they found:

The email, and Sharps’s subsequent correspondences with the company, were provided to The Bee for review. That initial email read in part, “We reviewed your account and found that your business is prohibited by Section 3 of the Payment Terms and/or Section 4 of the General Terms.”

In subsequent emails with Square, Sharps tried to determine the specific violation, as the sections cited cover a wide range of restrictions. That includes boilerplate language about not using the services for illegal activities to more specific restrictions prohibiting its use for gambling, adult entertainment and multi-level marketing businesses among others things.

After a close reading of the terms-of-service sections in question, Sharps thinks their service was canceled for “sales of (i) firearms, firearm parts or hardware, and ammunition; or (ii) weapons and other devices designed to cause physical injury.”

The thing is, the store doesn’t sell firearms. Those replicas can’t even be altered to function with live ammo. They’re nothing but cool-looking paperweights.

What did Square, Inc. have to say for themselves? Not much . . .

Square also would not comment on whether replica, non-operational firearms were considered a violation of its weapons terms, and whether there was an appeals process for accounts deemed in violation.

We have needed more large-scale-capable, 2A-friendly payment processing platforms for years now. Maybe more entrepreneurs will step up to offer disfavored businesses — like bookstores — more options.

 

 

86 COMMENTS

    • Actually, they might have a case. If Square arbitrarily removed the ability to conduct business from them, while previously allowing that same commerce (and allowing the business to be built around Square’s services to the point of dependency), then I believe they have standing to sue for loss of commerce.

      I would donate to a crowdfund for their legal fees. Unfortunately, GoFundMe doesn’t like anything related to our Constitutional rights, either, so it would need to be another platform.

        • A good Lawer can tell if a case is winnable and if so will take for a part of what the case makes and again a company like Square will not want all the bad publicity and will start there service back up with just a letter telling them they are going to be sued

        • That is why it keeps happening because nobody wants to start. “Oh its just too hard IS not an excuse”.

      • Bitcoin, or what I’m hoping for in the future, Patriot coin.

        I should re-enable crypto payments on my website. Deplatforming is inevitable for me. Tbh, Every business needs to get on the peer to peer transaction wagon or get left behind. While it isn’t as convenient, it does prevent central platforms from kicking you off.

        • Arc,

          I do not accept any cryptocurrencies from my customers of my small business — I only accept checks or cash. (And about 99.9% of my customers pay with checks.) While that is a tiny bit inconvenient at times, it just plain works and I don’t have to worry about an electronic processing platform deciding that I have a “wrong” attitude/mindset and killing my business.

          I have had a few customers ask about electronic payment methods. I explained to them that it can be next to impossible to trace/recall/recover erroneous electronic payments — compared to paper checks where you can simply write another one (if it disappears) or command your bank to “stop payment” if a criminal entity stole it. I also explained that I do not have any electronic payment information for anyone to steal which means that no one can ever acquire customer credit car numbers, bank account numbers, etc. from my business. All of my customers have liked that explanation and happily write checks.

        • Damn, U_S, how retro! Thass the way we used to do it, back in da day! Today, I discover, a book of checks seems to last about forever, I think I bought too many last year, they may outlive me!

      • “Unfortunately, GoFundMe doesn’t like anything related to our Constitutional rights, either,…”

        Yes, they do.

        They just have to be the ‘correct’ and ‘proper’ civil rights, determined on-the-fly by them.

        You know, the ‘Constitutional Rights Buffet’, where you pick and choose the rights you will recognize…

    • AS IF you’ll get redress of your grievances from the courts of an illegitimate government.

      Physical Removal is the only answer.

  1. Meta data sharing between the tech companies and intelligence/federal law enforcement may have revealed to Square that these proprietors were “problematic”. It probably has nothing to do with the Denix guns. Gun control isn’t about controling guns, after all; it’s about people control. “THEY” can afford to drop the pretenses now and go strait to totalitarianism. They don’t have pretend that laws, regulations, or terms of service agreements mean anything. We’re going to see a lot more of this.

  2. Guess who the founder and ceo of square is? Jack Dorsey the founded and ceo of Twitter

    He’s anti American and a pos of a person

    • Jack Dorsey is one of the two worst things to happen to this country in the last few decades. Mark Zuckerberg is the other. The rest of the tech oligarchs are bad, but these two operate like enemy agents, destroying a nation and a people from within, not to mention showcasing their approach for so many others to mimic. It’s long past time to show them and their corrosively anti-American communication monopolies the door.

    • Ah Clever guy., In context POS means Point of Sale. An other reference would bring legal trouble for defamation of character.

      Upvote /. star / whatever by me for you

  3. “We have needed more large-scale-capable, 2A-friendly payment processing platforms for years now. Maybe more entrepreneurs will step up to offer disfavored businesses — like bookstores — more options.”

    Unlikely. The cost and infrastructure to start up a 2A friendly payment processing platform is too prohibitive and buried behind red tape and layers of government bureaucracy. Even google had to (mostly) give up on establishing themselves as a competing internet service provider (I am aware it is not a perfect example, but it is similar enough that I mention it.)

    Add in that whatever company DOES attempt to startup will be shut out and ostracized from the cooperation of the existing large networks, and it is highly unlikely there will be any success without Governmental regulation of the financial sector. Parler and Gab are possibly the most prominent examples of the Tech Monopoly keeping smaller players out of the market. Again, not a perfect comparison, but how it works.

    “You don’t like it, build your own” has been a hollow argument for years.

    • Parler’s owners were stupid, they put their entire infrstructure on Amazon’s web service WITHOUT DATA BACKUPS OF ANY KIND. So they’re nuked, gone forever.

      Gab on the other hand is hardened against the tech tyrants because founder & CEO Andrew Torba actually worked for them a long time back, and he understood what would be needed to not get cancelled like Parler. Gab is on its own private servers, offers its apps from their own domain, and accepts Bitcoin and other payment methods that bypass the leftist-owned payment processors.

      Also, Gab is gaining more than a MILLION new members DAILY, with web traffic of more than 50 MILLION unique visitors! Hard to call Gab small potatoes anymore. Yeah, Gab won’t have 3 billion users like Fakebook, but fakebook was always about controlling as many people as possible. Gab is a freedom zone, and not everyone supports free speech.

      • I wouldn’t be so certain of Gab’s invincibility. Gab still has to have access to the backbone to function, and that can be easily shut off through a series of “favors” called in. It’s already banned from the app store and from google play. If Gab continues to grow and become a threat I anticipate further actions to destroy it. There are entire swathes of the internet that are not easily accessible by normal users, and they might as well not exist. That could well wind up being Gab’s fate. If you go to your browser and try to go to “gab.com” and it says the site is unreachable because google has decided their DNS servers don’t need to send you there.. what are you going to do?

        The Tech Oligarchs are all in bed together, and they all collectively hate free speech. If you think Gab can’t be silenced you’ll have to think again. The only reason they haven’t is because they’re hoping that the soft ban will be enough, because a hard ban might land them in court.

        • Doing so would put them in violation of antitrust laws and subject them to federal government action that could easily result in their monopolies being broken up, a fate that is already threatened. Congress is none too happy with these people right now, and they are being investigated by the DOJ for their anticompetitive practices.

        • “Congress is none too happy with these people right now, and they are being investigated by the DOJ for their anticompetitive practices.”

          Plenty of Democrats in congress have issues with big tech.

          We may be able to leverage that uneasiness…

        • De Facto,

          Gab still has to have access to the backbone to function, and that can be easily shut off through a series of “favors” called in.

          I started saying the same thing on this website a day or two after Big Tech nuked Parler.

          People fail to realize that there are three GINORMOUS vulnerabilities with the “Internet”:

          1) The “Internet” is nothing more than a bunch of private, interconnected networks and the owners of those private networks can and do limit and/or stop certain traffic from flowing across their networks. Their only incentive to pass most/all traffic is simple financial value: if the private network owner limits/blocks too much traffic, their network could lose too much value. (Who would want to pay to use a network which blocks them from doing what they want to do?) This incentive basically disappears for the Far Left and Big Tech (but I repeat myself), however, since no price is too high to pay when it comes to “virtue signaling”.

          2) Big Tech and all those private networks control both the root-level and second-tier DNS servers. For those of you who do not know, DNS servers report the numerical network address which corresponds to the name of the website that you type (or click). If DNS servers fail to return a numerical network address for the website that you want to visit, your computer/tablet/phone will not be able to contact that website since your devices only communicate with numerical network addresses, not alphabetic names of websites. (Saying it another way, DNS servers are “middle men” between your devices and websites and you are screwed if those “middle men” refuse to conduct business with you.)

          3) Big Tech creates the web browsers (e.g. Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Microsoft Edge, Apple Safari) that we use to interact with websites and other Internet platforms. It would be a trivial matter for Big Tech to update their web browsers to compare the website name that you type/click against a “blacklist” and refuse to interact with any website whose name appears on their “blacklist” — which could be updated in real time to include every known “bad” (e.g. non-Far Left) entity in existence.

          To top it all off, I am not aware of any laws which prohibit anything that I listed above. Historically all the players were only interested in maximizing the monetary value of their networks and related platforms and infrastructure. That was enough incentive to “play nice” for the most part. Now we see that many/most of of the players have so much money at this point that they don’t care if their values decrease significantly — and they may even believe that their assets will actually increase in value on their current trajectory of discriminatory practices.

          Note: all of my above points only covered direct and presumptively legal actions that Big Tech can implement to “cancel” huge numbers of businesses and people (personally). I did not even touch on the indirect (and likely illegal although realistically untraceable) actions that Big Tech proxies could level against “deplorable” businesses and people (personally) to achieve the same results.

          We truly are teetering on the edge of the abyss.

    • I used a Canadian processing company for my gunshop for 5 years…told them from the get-go My sales would all be firearm/ammo related. They couldn’t care less and charged 2.6% and topped out at 5k a month…anything over that I got 100% of.

  4. Don’t like that Social Media sites censor you based on politics? Create your own
    Don’t like that payment processors drop you based on politics? Create your own
    Don’t like that you can’t have an app on a phone’s operating system? Create your own
    Don’t like Google buries search results based on politics? Create your own search engine
    Don’t like Amazon refusing to sell products or host websites on servers? Create your own equivalent

    If you don’t have the resources to do all of that, then you don’t deserve to have a voice or right to sell your products. Cause if there’s one thing that we in the modern Dem party stands for, it’s for mega corporations using monopolistic powers to censor our political opponents.

    • I wonder how long before one of the disingenuous trolls replies to this claiming that everyone who believes in Capitalism also supports all monopolies plus all things that monopolies do. That would be proof that any “tRuMpTaRdS” who don’t like when monopolies band together to stifle political opponents is secretly a Socialist! Such is the very best logic these trolls are capable of anyway

      • in fact, if you believe in the heart of capitalism – free markets – by definition you really can’t support monopolies. Monopolies are the exact opposite of a free market.

    • Strip the tech monsters of 230 protection and use anti trust to chop them into small regionals and then we’ll see what it looks like.

    • It isn’t just the Modern Democrat party. The Democrat party has long stood for prejudice, bigotry, discrimination, and their current favorite term racist. They are historically the party of hatred, the only difference is they have shifted the target of their hatred, from Blacks, Jews, and Mexicans to their current objects of hatred. They have now declared their loathing for those of us who are Conservatives, or gun owners, or Trump voters, we can expect to be the target of whatever vicious nastiness their natural cruelty allows them to inflict on us. How else can they keep their fragile coalition together?

      • Do you truly feel as persecuted as the folks you’ve listed in your comment? Up until a few days ago the mist diehard of conservatives were in control of all three branches of the government.

        • First, last I checked, Pelosi isn’t a Republican.

          Second, government doesn’t control the whole country. Some 90% of Media, Silicon Valley, and Educational institutions are openly hostile to conservatives.

        • Forgive me, Time. Conservatives controlled the entire government – except the House of Representatives.

          As for your assertion that private industry is prejudiced against conservatives, your own ideology makes any complaint moot.

        • I’m not sure I’d claim that “conservatives” controlled the entire government. Looking at the ranks of the Republican party, I don’t actually see a whole lot of conservatives, in fact… but I see self-interested politicians, liars, and cheats pretty much everywhere.

        • “Forgive me, Time. Conservatives controlled the entire government – except the House of Representatives”

          Wrong, moron.

          It was the Senate filibuster (the ‘veto’ of any 10 Democrat votes in the Senate body) that kept us from de-regulating silencers, making constitutional carry nation-wide, and a whole bunch of other freedoms from happening.

          Fuckwit stupid Democrats like YOU… 😉

        • Frank “As for your assertion that private industry is prejudiced against conservatives, your own ideology makes any complaint moot.”

          I’ve seen this before. It’s a common tactic by people who 1, refuse to accept any information that doesn’t fit their ideology and 2, lacks the mental capacity to actual refute the arguments posted. Sad

  5. Well people still use Square to buy gun’s & fake guns. Cash advance is a thing. My wife uses Square in her antique business and I have no say in it. This store needed to have their chit together. They did not…

  6. Well according to the Libertarians. These muti-billion dollar private companies have ever right to destroy another private business they don’t like. I remember way back when another private companies, decided to stop selling porn magazines. Only then did the Libertarians complain. Very loudly in fact.
    “Now bake that cake you bigot!!!”

    It has NEVER been about liberty to the Libertarians, Liberals or the Left.

    • Typical stupidity from you. This company has other options personally I think this story is dumb. Unfortunately in a free society we have a choice of who we do business with. You in the other hand support government control over this just as the Democrats do. The problem is you are literally too dumb to understand you are the problem.

      • “Unfortunately in a free society we have a choice of who we do business with.”

        Unfortunately?

        How very fascist of you! Get cancer and die alone… 🙂

    • Yes, because Ayn Rand is well known for that book where libertarians are running around forcing individuals to work against their self determination.

      I swear there are days that the only reason to get up is to get on this site and make sure you look like an idiot for your stupid anti-libertarian comments, but clearly you’re handling that yourself, too.

  7. Stand by for more of this and worse behavior. The communists are emboldened because they won, and many assume that they won because they are the majority of voters. Think about it. Everyone who didn’t vote for the communists needs to get mad and vote with their wallet against these businesses running amok, abusing and neglecting the true majority of the nation.

  8. This is interesting.

    Paypal does not like firearms.
    eBay allows sales of firearm parts.
    Paypal is now owned by eBay.

    I can sell firearms parts on ebay, but it’s a violation of ebay’s subsidiary, so I can’t use paypal.

    More to the point, this is becoming like China’s social credit rating system. Your economic viability will be tied to your support of the socialist agenda.

    • “I can sell firearms parts on ebay, but it’s a violation of ebay’s subsidiary, so I can’t use paypal.”

      Try anyways.

      I have a growing pile of gun parts on my desk, and I have bought *all of them* on eBay, using PayPal.

      (My eBay and PayPal accounts have *zero* association with the name “Geoff PR”…

    • “this is becoming like China’s social credit rating system.”

      No you are not being honest with your self. This is private discrimination from a multi billion dollar private company. Just what Libertarians support. The social credit rating system in china is a communist government plan.

      I assume you would support this plan if, and only if, it was done by private business. Correct?

    • Guess I’m just iggorunt, I have never figured out why in hell I would use paypal for anything at all. Something wrong with a normal credit card? Likewise Applepay. What’s in it for me? Now you tell me they’re anti-2A assholes to boot? Why are you using them?

    • Unfortunately that would eliminate a lot of shopping from small local stores. The bakery in my area uses square for check out, and I won’t stop buying cheesecake from them when it comes time for special occasions.

      • I have to admit good cheesecake ranks up there with gun rights in my book.

        (I wonder if packing a suppressor with cheesecake filling is as effective as cable-pulling gel, for Db reduction? Time to experiment! 😉 )

      • I don’t see a reason to stop frequenting the business, just stop sending your money to Square, pay cash. Remember cash?

  9. Ok, wait a minute. Does “close” mean permanently? It could mean only “temporarily for 2 days until we were able to sign with a different processor.” There are some facts missing from this story. I own a business that accepts card payments, and I can tell you for a fact that processors are calling me daily to make their pitch. Losing your card processor, in itself, is no reason to have to permanently close your business.

    That being said, looks like bad form on the part of Square. Bill Whittle just did an interesting commentary on terms of service and how conservatives can fight back against “woke” vendors that slap us with technicalities.

    • My wife and I are the proprietors of the store in the article (Columbia Booksellers & Variety Store) and plan to re-open our store this weekend (the new website will follow later). We have been closed for 10 days total. We have selected Shopify to replace Square, but their payment processor’s terms-of-service also restrict “firearms” and “weapons”. We have decided to remove the replicas from our website and sell in-store for cash-only outside of the point-of-sale system. Authorize.net allows weapons and firearms and can be integrated with Shopify’s platform, but their transaction fee is significantly higher than Shopify’s at 2.9% + $0.30 compared to Shopify’s 2.5% + $0.00. Shopify also adds an additional transaction fee of 1% when using a third party processor bringing it 3.9% + $0.30 per transaction which is cost prohibitive for our small business. With the substantial increase in freight costs over the last year in addition to the increase in minimum wage, we have to take the savings where we can. The most ridiculous part of this whole thing: these are not real guns.

  10. If this is really about the replica guns then the decision to terminate the contract is pretty stupid but I’m sure they’ll find another payment processor.

  11. Well chit. I use Square as the payment processor for my firearms instruction company. Will I be kicked off it soon too? Every single merchant at the gun shows I attend use square for payment processing. This could have huge impacts on the firearm industry!

    Can someone recommend a gun friendly payment processor to replace square with?

    • Pretty sure there was some other things going on. As usual it’s a very badly written story with numerous facts probably omitted for click bait.

    • My wife and I are the proprietors of the store in the article. The difference is likely that all of our inventory was loaded into Square (over 2,000 sku’s). I have learned that many of these platforms have started running “bots” that crawl their customer’s product catalog and website looking for keywords in the item name and description related to weapons. Additionally, all credit card transactions are associated with the items sold and can get flagged if they have one of the restricted keywords. If a gun is sold through Square as a “custom item/amount” and is not in the item catalog, then there is no way for Square to know if it was a gun.

      Since you sell instruction services rather than guns, I don’t think you would be in violation of their terms-of-service. Anyone who is selling weapons through Square as a “custom item/amount” needs to be aware that Square could cancel your payment processing without notice and potentially put you on the MATCH LIST if they ever find out. Just be careful, we have learned this the hard way. Except in our case, they weren’t real guns – just expensive toys for adults.

  12. How did they get so many people to leave their homes and gather into cattle cars into mass extermination?

    Good thing we’re more aware today…….

  13. It probably wasn’t the non-firing replicas. It was probably the hardback copy of War & Peace in large print. That things weighs about eight pounds and if you threw it at someone…. ‘Magine that the lily livered liberals are afraid of a pop tart chewed into the shape of a sideways L.

  14. LOVE THA COMMENTS , PRO’s N CON’s .
    N DARN , MAKE IT IN ORANGE OR BE ALLOWED TO SPRAY PAINT ORANGE N GET BY WITH THAT . UUUH , KNOW SOME ONE WHO GOT BY WITH ORANGE FACE . IN BROKE A LOT OF VARIOUS CONSTITUTIONAL LAWS . YEAH ORANGE PAINT MIGHT DO THA TRICK .

    • ntexaspos…You’ve been told before about SHOUTING out that stupid piehole of yours. I bet you have a problem with more than just the color orange. Ain’t dat right you bigoted democRat pos?

  15. This is the biggest problem right now- forget about the social media platforms. You can make your own. But you can’t make your own bank.

    • “But you can’t make your own bank.”

      That’s something we can do. We have no shortage of folks with money.

      So why isn’t anyone structuring and creating one, specifically created to support the firearm industry and retail sales?

  16. DON’T TAKE IT LYING DOWN!
    1. Start a go fund me page, then
    2. SUE THEM! — Violation of the FIRST AMENDMENT, and RESTRAINT OF TRADE.

    IF THEY CAN GET AWAY WITH IT HERE, THEN WHERE WILL THEY GO NEXT?

  17. You went to prison for 10 to 20 years if you opened another persons US Mail. But Libertarians wanted to the post office to be done away with. They said it was better if private business handled the mail in the country. Post office supporters said a private
    company would not service everyone as the Post office does. Libertarians said “some day” a private business would pick up the slack.

    Now strangers, multi billion dollar companies, read your mail and they edit your mail, all the time. This is book burning in the 21st century. Amazing how so called Libertarians Liberals and the Left support it.

  18. I pay my rent with a check, everything else is cash. Why use Bitcoin, PayPal, or anything internet unless you like being set up? Laziness has never been rewarded.

  19. As has been shown by examples from Imperial Japan through Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union to North Korea and China today, stupidity and evil usually go hand in hand.

  20. This makes no sense at all. Loosing a credit card processor is not a reason to go out of business. If you have inventory and a brick and mortar location you continue business for 48 hours while only accepting cash & checks while you find a new processor and set up new hardware. If you own your non proprietary hardware you cut it down to 24 hours. Depending on website architecture you could be running in six hours or you might be in for a rough time. Again you are in better shape if you are not using a proprietary system.

    Loosing a credit card processor is a bad day, not a reason to go out of business.

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