Thursday, February 21, 2013

Gun Shy Amazon

I have twenty-one books for sale on AmazonBooks, and eleven on Amazon Kindle. Upon reading the news that Amazon is pressuring – nay, demanding – that sellers of guns and firearms accessories withdraw some of their products from sale on Amazon, I sent Amazon Books this letter.

20 February 2013

Amazon Books


I direct your attention to an article on the Web forwarded to me, "Amazon Removing Gun Products From Store. Worse Than EBay," about Amazon demanding that vendors remove certain accessories and other gun-related items from their Amazon listings. If they do not comply, these vendors will be banned from selling all their products on Amazon. The veracity of this article is not to be questioned, albeit it would be helpful if you confirmed this ultimatum.

I cannot imagine what prompted Amazon to reach this decision other than a craven submission to the anti-gun hysteria that arose even before the Sandy Hook School, Newtown, CT massacre, together with all the misinformation about guns and gun-owners propagated by enemies of the First and Second Amendments of the Constitution, a hysteria which has gripped not only many Americans but Congress and numerous advocacy groups. This hysteria can be likened to a kind of moral epilepsy, rooted in a penchant for political correctness and towing the government line, in this instance an episode of too little neuronal activity in the brain, a phenomenon which has caused you to bite your tongue and require your vendors and customers to bite theirs.

That being said– and I am sure you are not so far gone that you cannot detect the tone of contempt and opprobrium for you in this missive, but, then, when have cowards ever felt shame for their behavior? – I offer you an opportunity to maintain a consistency in your policy and win the acclaim of the anti-gun bloc. I strongly urge you to remove from sale on Amazon Books any title of mine in whose title the term "gun" occurs. Two titles come to mind at the moment, Whisper the Guns, and Running Out My Guns. In fact, I suggest that you remove all my titles, for in each and every one of them guns are employed. This would include the whole series of Sparrowhawk, novels about the American Revolution.

Come to think of it, why not remove all titles that feature guns and violence from your listings? If you are going to be so conscientiously and foolishly sensitive and picayune about the matter of guns and gun-violence, it would salve your sense of moral worth with an act of total and unqualified consistency.

Just think of the national acclaim you would garner by performing such an act of contrition. Of course, it would reduce your listings by an unimaginable percentage, and consequently affect your revenue, but, after all, what is money when it is imperative that you do the "right thing"?

By the way, I have sent this as an open letter to as many publications and media as I could muster the time for.

Best wishes in your new endeavor,

Edward Cline

Although written in a contemptuous, satirical vein, this was a serious letter, which remains unacknowledged by Amazon. As an "open letter," it was sent to publications friendly to gun ownership and the Second Amendment, and also to hostile ones, including the New York Times and the Washington Post. While I received programmed, automatic acknowledgements from all the publications, only one actual, living person replied, the editor of the Firearmblog, who thanked me for sending it.

Let us take a look at Amazon's anti-sales spiel that was sent to a vendor of "gun-related" products.

This product has been identified a X. X are prohibited from sale on Amazon.

For more information on our policies, search on "Restricted Products" and "Listing Restrictions" in seller Help.

**Action Required: Within 48 hours of this notice, please review your remaining listings and make any changes necessary to ensure compliance with our policies.

Failure to comply with this request may result in the removal of your selling privileges.

We appreciate your cooperation and thank you for selling on

As reported by the Firearmblog, the notice was sent to selected vendors. The identity of the specific vendor to whom the notice was sent was protected by the editor of the Firearmblog. But, if you look at the "Weapons" page of permitted and impermissible gun-related items, just about the only "guns" that can be sold on Amazon are "play" guns, such as BB guns, air guns, and paintball guns. Under the Prohibited listing one finds just about the whole range of "real" guns, that is, guns one could use to defend oneself against burglars, rapists, and muggers. Or even government agents. Prohibited "weapons" included in the list are bows and arrows, spears, pepper spray, muzzle-loading, black powder muskets and black powder itself. And starting pistols.
Amazon's list was probably culled from restrictions established by the ATF and other government agencies charged with "protecting" citizens against gun violence, and too likely with "protecting" government agents against any meaningful resistance to government gun violence against American citizens.

In reviewing the Prohibited list, one can only wonder why Amazon permits the sale of any kind of firearm at all. Apparently, anything that goes "bang!" or "whoosh!" or "Pssst!" or "click!" scares the hell out of Amazon.
A friend remarked to me: Why don't they also prohibit the sale of violent video games, and movies that feature gun violence, and nonfiction books on guns and marksmanship and so on? Why not go whole-hog, and ban things like jigsaw puzzles of Howard Pyle's painting of the battle of Bunker Hill, or of John Trumbull'sDeath of General Warren, or of Custer's Last Stand, or perhaps a video of the Marines' rifle drill.

The anti-gun hysteria has spread to major companies such as Comcast, which, upon purchasing a controlling interest in NBC, has banned ads by gun sellers. As reported by Newsmax:
The ban came to light when John Kupiec, president of the advertising agency Canadian American Corp., attempted to purchase an ad for Michigan-based gun store Williams Gun Sight Inc. but was denied, according to CBS News' Detroit affiliate.

"Comcast Spotlight has decided it will not accept new advertising for firearms or weapons moving forward," the cable provider said in a statement to CBS. "This policy aligns us with the guidelines in place at many media organizations."

The HollywoodReporter elaborates:

NBC Universal does not accept ads for fireworks or weapons but for some exceptions. For example, the NBC Sports Network will allow ads for hunting weapons, but it will not accept spots for guns such as assault rifles and hand guns. Several shows focusing primarily on guns, such as Guns & Gear,will no longer appear on NBC Sports, though other hunting focused shows, including Elk Fever, likely will return.

The term "assault weapon" is about as denigrating as the term "Islamophobia." As "Islamophobia" is meant to demonize anyone who criticizes Islam, "assault weapon" is intended to demonize guns. But if one examines the term "assault weapon," it is an anti-concept that evokes an image of violence. After all, "assault" means to attack, and "assault weapon" means a tool with which to attack. It can mean a tool that goes "bang!" and shoots a bullet, or it can mean a tool that goes "thunk!" like a ball-peen hammer or a rock. I think I've read a detective novel in which a badminton racket was used as a weapon. Or was it a golf club? Better alert President Obama about that. For all the pricygolfing he does while Rome burns, and for all the words he's slung against the lifestyles of the rich and famous, should he be acting as a model for a mass murderer?
Anti-gun advocates in and out of government love the term "assault weapon" precisely because it demonizes gun makers and gun owners. For them, it is a term of precision and defines the kinds of guns they don’t like. As reported by the NRA, however, the term is actually military slang and is hardly precise or definitional.

Reporters, fond of the way that the slang term "assault weapon" spruces up their articles, and ignoring the maxim that a term that means everything means nothing, have continued to use it to refer to things other than firearms – including baseball players, knives, folding chairs, telephones and SUVs. And, they've applied the "assault" prefix to other things that, like guns, can be used, but almost always are not used, as weapons -- including dogs and knives – ignoring one Drug Enforcement Agency agent's reminder that "It doesn't become a weapon until you use it."

The Brady Campaign has implied that the "gun industry" invented the term "assault weapon" in 1986, but the implication is obviously false. As noted above, the Brady Campaign used the term in 1984 and newspapers used it varyingly during the previous 41 years. However, though we believe much of what the Brady Campaign says is false by design, in this instance the error may be innocent. After all, the group states on its website that it changed its name to Handgun Control, Inc., in 1980. In fact, the name change occurred in 1979. If the Brady Campaign doesn't know when it adopted its own name, it can't be expected to know when it or others adopted "assault weapon."
Media Matters, a George Soros-funded propaganda site, provides a history of "assault weapons" dating back to Nazi Germany (1944:Nazi Germany develops the first mass produced assault rifle, the Sturmgewehr), but otherwise blasts all "assault" weapons that go "rat-tat-tat-tat" and inveighs against them like a virgin spinster ranting against premarital and marital sex. As with the New York Times and Washington Post, it refuses to use any other term than "assault weapon." The Media Matters article is loaded with scary pictures of "assault weapons" and military ads that boast of the efficacy of "assault weapons." An ad for the Bushmaster "assault weapon" is also featured. All the illustrations are intended to incriminate guns, gun sellers, and gun owners.

It concludes with this non-news:

January 24, 2013: Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) introduces legislation for an expandedassault weapons ban that prohibitsthe "sale, transfer, manufacturing and importation of" 157 named assault weapons, along with any rifles or pistols derivative of the AR-15 or AK-47. The legislation also bans rifles with the ability to accept a detachable magazine that also have one or more military features including a "pistol grip; forward grip; folding, telescoping, or detachable stock; grenade launcher or rocket launcher; barrel shroud; or threaded barrel."
I wonder what would happen if I invited big Democraticdonor JeffBezos, founderof Amazon, to a friendly round of golf, or even to tennis. No, it wouldn't happen. The club or the racket might scare him off. Besides, he'd spurn the invitation. I'm not one of the wealthy liberal elite. I like to "cling" to my Constitution, and guns.

I'm betting he goes around with an armed guard, too.

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