LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) -- Central Arkansas Gun Store Owners told THV11 that Facebook has impinged upon their First Amendment and Second Amendment, but the owners claim that haven’t done anything wrong.
Last year Facebook cracked down on gun sales. Some private individuals were even banned from advertising or selling firearms on Facebook. However, those with a federal firearms license were still allowed to sell on their business' Facebook pages.
So, why did two federally licensed gun store owners find their posts blocked and their accounts banned?
“It started last Wednesday,” explained Nathan House, owner of Arkansas Armory, a gun shop in Sherwood. “It came to my attention by my Facebook app that we weren't allowed to post that.”
He said the post was pretty run of the mill, just a photo of a gun for sale.
“They sent me a warning saying, ‘Hey, this violates our community standards.’ From there, I didn't post anything on Thursday. Then Friday, I got another message from Facebook that said that other posts in our past, where we'd listed guns for sale, violated their community standards. They again restricted my ability to make [posts] on my business page, on my personal page, Facebook messenger, for 24 hours,” House said.
House was told he violated Facebook's gun sales policy, but wasn't given a chance to appeal. He believes someone may have flagged his posts as “inappropriate,” and they were removed without anyone verifying that he's a licensed dealer.
“There's a button you can push on there that says ‘I think this is a mistake,’ and it comes up with a note that says 'thanks for letting us know,’” House said.
In Bauxite, Hamid Pezeshk, the owner of First Shot gun store, is at risk of having his page for almost the exact same circumstances.
“I posted a typical picture of a gun and a box of ammo,” he told THV11.
That got him suspended for three days.
“So I wrote a letter to President Donald Trump. I nicely, politely voiced my concern about a publicly owned business discriminating against a legally owned business in this country,” Pezeshk said.
He posted the letter and was banned again.
“Practicing my 2nd Amendment, I got shot down for three days. Because of practicing my 1st Amendment, I got shut down for seven days, with a warning that a third violation and I'm going to be shut down for 30 days.
One of the biggest problems Pezeshk has with Facebook is that he's been shut down for three days, then seven days, and could possibly be shut down for 30 days without any accountability. Facebook hasn't told him what policy he's violated, and what he could do to avoid having his page shut down in the future.
Both men say having their pages shut down, even temporarily, impacts their bottom line.
“We are out in the country. There's not much of a drive-by business, drive-by traffic here. So the best way to reach folks and let them know we even exist, we are here is through advertising on Facebook, social media,” the business owner explained from his rural, but booming store.
Both men wanted a phone number, an email address, a human he could reach out to in order to appeal. That wasn't provided.
We reached out to Facebook. They tell us that when posts are flagged, it is directed to their Community Operations Team.
That team reviews those reports continuously.
Facebook admitted to us they were wrong, saying: "We're very sorry about this mistake. The posts were removed in error. We restored them as soon as we were able to investigate. Our team processes millions of reports each week, and we sometimes get things wrong."
While the men say they are happy that we were able to get their pages restored, they are worried this will continue to happen to gun store owners, until Facebook makes changes on the corporate level.