YouTube Plans to Shut Down Gun Instructional Videos

Cody Wilson fears that major private institutions are trying to make gunmakers non-persons.


YouTube announced this week that it will soon begin taking down videos that violate its new policies on gun-related content. It will bar not just explicit sales of certain weapons but also videos that present "instructions on manufacturing a firearm, ammunition, high capacity magazine, homemade silencers/suppressors, or certain firearms accessories such as those listed above. This also includes instructions on how to convert a firearm to automatic or simulated automatic firing capabilities."

Defense Distributed

Vice Motherboard reports that enforcement of the new policies will likely start next month. One gun-related channel, Spike's Tactical, claimed in the wake of that news that YouTube had already suspended it, though I see the channel still there today.

Cody Wilson, inventor of the first 3D-printed plastic handgun, says he's awaiting actual action on YouTube's part before considering his next move. "When they start taking shit down is when I want to get loud," he said in a phone interview today. His channel is still up and running.

He's had videos related to his gunmaking taken down before. But in the past, he says, YouTube has generally couched its complaints about gun-related content in terms of copyright (say, for music in the background) or the danger that certain age groups will see the material.

Wilson fears that in the current climate YouTube will be as broad as possible in what it takes down, "like if you show a magazine and a gun this is tantamount to demonstrating to someone how to assemble" a weapon. He has announced on Twitter that he will not help YouTube by taking anything down himself.

Others in the gun community are worried about what alternative places could host their videos if and when they are actually driven from YouTube. "People are emailing me, asking me if I'll be the guy" to figure out a new video solution, Wilson says. "But I have no idea. It's too expensive to do. I don't know if there can be a YouTube alternative in the way we understand YouTube now."

Wilson does mention one "marketable, hilarious answer" to the "what now?" question: Pornhub. Indeed, the InRangeTV channel has already told NPR that it is taking that tack. (Check it out yourself. A search on the term "guns" brought up at least one of their videos in the top picks, among lots of more conventional pornography involving guns in some manner.)

Wilson in our interview this morning also cited Citigroup's announcement yesterday that it

will require new retail sector clients or partners to adhere to these best practices: (1) they don't sell firearms to someone who hasn't passed a background check, (2) they restrict the sale of firearms for individuals under 21 years of age, and (3) they don't sell bump stocks or high-capacity magazines. This policy will apply across the firm, including to small business, commercial and institutional clients, as well as credit card partners, whether co-brand or private label. It doesn't impact the ability of consumers to use their Citi cards at merchants of their choice.

To Wilson, both moves are disturbing signs that the culture at large, not necessarily the state per se, is closing in on him and his interests. "This is really happening now. YouTube, Google, banks….The libertarian response is just that these are all private companies, so….? And that's true. But if you are no longer a person" to such leading institutions in marketing, commerce, and communication, "then what [options are] there?"