In a move that I really wish had come a lot sooner, YouTube is banning videos promoting gun sales, as well as those that provide instructions on how to create and assemble certain gun accessories, according to The Hill. The site's new guidelines prohibit users from posting links to sites that sell firearms, and it also bans videos that show viewers how to manufacture bump stocks, high capacity magazines, and homemade silencers, how to install such items, or how to convert a semiautomatic weapon to a fully automatic one. According to the Independent, the site had previously removed videos showing how to use bump stocks back in October, following the deadly mass shooting in Las Vegas during which such devices were used.
This isn't exactly a new policy per se; it's more of a stricter interpretation of existing YouTube policies that prohibit "content that intends to incite violence or encourage dangerous or illegal activities that have an inherent risk of serious physical harm or death." The site lists five guidelines it considers when determining if a video in in breach of that rule, including whether it depicts an act that "could lead to serious injury or death," whether it "could be used to commit serious acts of violence," and if it "could be easily imitated by minors."
If you've ever read the comments beneath a YouTube video, you know that the site has plenty of users who have no business learning how to use a assault rifle or any other kind of weapon. The accused perpetrator in the Parkland shooting last month reportedly visited YouTube to "research wars, military material, and terrorist topics," according to the Miami Herald, and is suspected of posting a comment on one video that read, "Im going to be a professional school shooter," according to USA Today. The teen accused of opening fire on a South Carolina elementary school playground in 2016 was also known to watch and comment on gun review videos, the Chicago Tribune reported, and The Daily Beast has reported that the suspect in December's New Mexico school shooting regularly posted on YouTube under the name "Future Mass Shooter."
Today's kids can learn nearly anything from YouTube, and that's not always a bad thing. They look up slime recipes, they watch video game tutorials to learn how to build things in Minecraft, and they can even teach themselves to play a musical instrument. But not all "how to" videos are appropriate for kids. Take the case of the 8-year-old Ohio boy who taught himself to drive via YouTube videos last year, then took his piggy bank and his dad's van to McDonald's (he's fine, but still).
And there's certainly a place on YouTube for grown-up learning; I myself have used it figure out how to diagnose plumbing problems, perform a tuneup on a lawnmower, and create a perfect smoky eye. But nobody, young or old, should be manufacturing their own DIY weapons, and those who want to purchase or learn about such items would be better off speaking with licensed professionals. Screwing up a winged eyeliner tutorial is one thing; we don't need people shooting their faces off with a jury-rigged silencer.
The complaints from YouTubers are already rolling in; Florida gun manufacturer Spike's Tactical posted an email from YouTube on its Facebook page yesterday explaining that the company's channel had been removed "due to repeated or severe violations of our Community Guidelines." Their post read:
The Liberal Left will slowly chip away at our freedoms and erode our rights, and the first step is to squelch our voice. To say we're f*cking pissed is an understatement. However we are not backing down from these b*tches. SHALL NOT INFRINGE!
The thing is, the U.S. Constitution does not guarantee the right to post YouTube videos. The Second Amendment still stands.