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Small Town Gun Shop Owners Discuss How Being Blacklisted on Social Media Is Hurting Their Business

By: Teresa Mull

HD and Libbey Cates opened Oh, Shoot Gun Shop/Cates Firearms & Manufacturing, LLC in Roy, New Mexico (population 224) two years ago. HD, a gunsmith, says local clientele has been keeping him fairly busy with work, but the Cates report lack of a social media presence is hampering them from expanding as quickly as they could.

“As excited as we were to [open], our inability to advertise our new business on any social media platform [has been] a challenge,” Libbey Cates told Gunpowder Magazine. “All the social media platforms say, ‘We’re not interested in what you’re selling.’ Even finding a credit company that would process our transactions was a challenge. The day-to-day getting the business ready and up on its feet – there were challenges from corporate America saying, ‘We don’t support this,’ to social media saying ‘We’re not interested in your advertising with us,’ Those kinds of things have been surprising and frustrating.”

The Cates say they’re able to host a Facebook page for their shop, but they’re trying to grow their audience, and if they try to advertise on social media or boost their posts, their efforts are denied.

“I can’t even sell books about firearms by boosting a post,” Libbey Cates said. “If we have sales or special deals, there’s nothing we can really do on Facebook to promote it. A lot of places businesses normally post, YouTube, Facebook, Craigslist, Twitter, we can’t post because of [the nature of] our business.

“Advertising is expensive,” Libbey Cates continued. “Especially print advertising, and print advertising is not as effective as it used to be. If I want to run an ad in our local paper for one week, it would cost me $80. While that doesn’t seem like a lot, for $80 on Facebook, I could reach up to 5,000 people based on how long I spread the ad out, or if I boost the post. It is a hurdle, because it’s more cost-efficient to do social media, and it’s more effective, because people don’t read the paper anymore. People don’t listen to the radio anymore. They are on these platforms that have taken a stance that ‘We don’t promote violence,’ and guns are violent, so, it causes us not to be able to reach as many people as we would like, because they’re saying [our ads] don’t meet the standards.”

The Cates are in company with countless fellow firearms related businesses being blacklisted by social media giants. Geoffrey Mull, this writer’s brother, sells “Covert Clutch” gun grip sleeves, but he says he can’t promote them on platforms where they’d be most effectively advertised.

“I’m a small business, and I actually sell a product intended to make firearms safer, but because of the extreme political correctness of the major social media companies, it is simply impossible to do meaningful online marketing,” Mull said.

Social Media Policies
I sent media requests to all of these social media platforms and was directed to their policy pages. A spokesman for Facebook told me in an email, “…We have spoken with some small shops to show them how they can adjust their ads – whether it’s their landing page or image – to make them compliant with our policies,” but failed to get back to me on how specifically gun related companies can make their ads compliant.

The following are various social media platform’s professed policies on firearms-related material, gleaned from their respective websites:

Facebook:
We want people to feel safe when using Facebook. For that reason, we prohibit any attempts by unauthorized dealers to purchase, sell, or trade prescription drugs, marijuana, or firearms.

  1. Weapons, Ammunition, or Explosives

Policy
Ads must not promote the sale or use of weapons, ammunition, or explosives. This includes ads for weapon modification accessories.

Examples
Blogs or groups connecting people with weapon-related interests, as long as the service doesn’t lead to the sale of these products

Safety courses for firearm training or licenses, and books and videos about firerarm safety

Plastic guns, swords and toy weapons

Mounted flashlights for firearms (must set ad audience minimum age to 18 years old or over)

Scopes and sights for firearms (must set ad audience minimum age to 18 years old or over)

Hunting, self-defense, and military clothing and gear such as shooting targets and clay throwers (must set ad audience minimum age to 18 years old or over)

Holsters and belt accessories (must set ad audience minimum age to 18 years old or over)

Gun safes, mounts (including bipods), gun cases, and slings (must set ad audience minimum age to 18 years old or over)

Equipment and protective clothing (including vests) (must set ad audience minimum age to 18 years old or over)

Paint, coatings or wraps for weapons and magazings (must set ad audience minimum age to 18 years old or over)

Firearms, including firearms parts, ammunition, paintball guns and bb guns
Firearm silencers or suppressors

Weapons of any kind, including pepper spray, non-culinary knives/blades/spears, tasers, nunchucks, batons, or weapons intended for self-defense

Fierworks and explosives

Ads promoting the brandishing of firearms

Policy
Ads must not promote the sale or use of weapons, ammunition, or explosives. This includes ads for weapon modification accessories.

Twitter:
Twitter prohibits the promotion of weapons and weapon accessories globally.

Examples of weapons and weapon accessories include:
• Guns, including airsoft guns, air guns, blow guns, paintball guns, antique guns, replica guns, and imitation guns
• Gun parts and accessories, including gun mounts, grips, magazines, and ammunition
• Rental of guns (other than from shooting ranges)
• Stun guns, taser guns, mace, pepper spray or other similar self defense weapons
• Swords, machetes, and other edged/bladed weapons
• Explosives, bombs and bomb making supplies and/or equipment
• Fireworks, flamethrowers and other pyrotechnic devices
• Knives, including butterfly knives, fighting knives, switchblades, disguised knives, and throwing stars

Instagram:
Instagram is not a place to support or praise terrorism, organized crime, or hate groups. Offering sexual services, buying or selling firearms and illegal or prescription drugs (even if it’s legal in your region) is also not allowed. Remember to always follow the law when offering to sell or buy other regulated goods. Accounts promoting online gambling, online real money games of skill or online lotteries must get our prior written permission before using any of our products.

Craigslist:
Here is a partial list of goods, services, and content prohibited on craigslist:
• weapons; firearms/guns and components; BB/pellet, stun, and spear guns; etc
• ammunition, clips, cartridges, reloading materials, gunpowder, fireworks, explosives

Firearms: A Unifying Force
HD Cates grew up around guns, ranching in rural New Mexico. He spent years in the construction business, and eventually attended the Colorado School of Trades, where for 18 months, he spent eight hours a day, four days a week gunsmithing. He now specializes in custom gunsmithing and custom stocks.

20180728_141903-1
The Cates in their shop in Roy, New Mexico.

HD and Libbey opened their shop in the old town grocery store, which they completely refurbished, in tiny Roy – the entire county is home to just under 700 souls – to be near HD’s parents. HD’s father gave him his first gun, a K-frame 22 Smith & Wesson, when he was about nine or ten, and HD says he “carried it on the ranch my whole life. I probably put 2 or 3 million rounds through it. It burned in a house once, but it still shoots good.

“About everybody here owns anywhere from one to 100 guns,” HD said of the Harding County community. “Everyone owns a firearm here. There are very few that don’t, but they understand the rights of people, and there’s no problem there.”

Libbey, who didn’t grow up around guns and comes from an academic background where she was surrounded by liberals, says she’s had her eyes opened to the unifying role firearms play in American culture.

“I used to think it was just about hunting – people who were into guns, [but] we’ve gotten to meet so many awesome people from every walk of life,” Libbey said. “From the super wealthy, to the average, everyday Joe. We have just met some of the neatest folks, and what’s so awesome about the firearms world is, as much as some people want you to think it’s the hick out in the backwoods, there are so many people, doctors and lawyers to road crew guys who love their Second Amendment and are educated about it and want to talk about it and want to fight for it.

“We worked for ten years and saved for ten years,” Libbey said. “People are passionate about this, and their firearms mean something to them. We have people who bring in firearms that belonged to their dad, and their grandad, for gunsmithing. HD rebuilt a firearm for one of our townsfolk here, and when he got it, he wept, because it brought back so many memories. You wouldn’t think you’d be able to have that kind of impact with a firearm.”

Teresa Mull is editor of Gunpowder Magazine. Contact her at teresa@gunpowdermagazine.com.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Gunpowder Magazine.