I confess, I don’t use TikTok because of its serious security issues and its deep ties to the Chinese Communist Party, but that doesn’t stop hundreds of millions of people from using the platform, including many in the Second Amendment community. Tags like #guns and #2a are some of the more popular on the app, but if the scolds over at Media Matters for America get their wish, the #pewpew will go bye-bye before long.
The website, which unfortunately does have a great deal of influence in lefty media, ran with a scare-mongering story this week claiming the site is teaching teens to build automatic weapons and hollow-point ammunition. Here’s a taste.
The hashtag “#HomeMadePew” refers to homemade ammunition and has over 10 million views.
This user explains how to make homemade ammunition (while showing the process of making his own) and then gives detailed instructions in the comments section. The user described the ammunition as “hollow points” in the comments.
“Homemade ammunition” in this case is simply a video of a guy reloading ammo, which is perfectly legal and not uncommon among gun owners, though the supply of components has dried up right along with the supply of commercially available ammunition.
Of course, Media Matters is bothered by ammunition manufacturers having a presence on TikTok as well.
Ammunition companies and dealers also market their products on TikTok. For example, LAX Ammunition has a popular account with over 74,000 followers and directs users to its website, which is linked on TikTok. The company also updates users on ammunition it has in-stock and available for sale through its site.
The horror! An ammo company is using social media to inform its customers when they have product in stock? Clearly a ban on TikTok won’t suffice. We better nuke the Internet just to be safe.
It’s funny that Media Matters never applauded the Trump administration’s decision to ban TikTok, since that would take care of their problem. Instead, the Biden administration has hit the pause button on Trump’s TikTok ban and appears to be ready to drop it entirely.
TikTok argued the ban exceeded presidential authority, violated users’ First Amendment rights and flouted the Administrative Procedures Act because it’s arbitrary and capricious. U.S. District Judge Carl J. Nichols granted TikTok’s injunction, finding the government was acting outside its authority, the social video app is likely to succeed on the merits of its claims, and it would suffer irreparable harm if the ban were to take effect.
In a joint status report filed Thursday, the parties informed Nichols that the new administration is looking into the underlying issues, which could narrow or end the dispute, and asked him to stay proceedings for 60 days so it has a chance to get up to speed.
To be fair (unlike the folks at Media Matters), TikTok does appear to be allowing videos that violate their terms of service, which prohibits “the depiction, promotion, or trade of firearms, ammunition, firearm accessories, or explosive weapons.”
As Media Matters points out, however, the policy also states that, “content as part of a museum’s collection, carried by a police officer, in a military parade, or used in a safe and controlled environment such as a shooting range may be allowed.”
Immediately after this disclaimer, TikTok forbids users from even displaying firearms and firearm accessories: “Do not post, upload, stream or share … content that displays firearms, firearm accessories, ammunition, or explosive weapons.” TikTok also prohibits “content that offers the purchase, sale, trade, or solicitation of firearms, accessories, ammunition, explosive weapons, or instructions on how to manufacture them.”
Perhaps the greatest irony in all of this is that TikTok has tens of millions of videos promoting gun ownership (as well as some videos that seemingly promote violations of U.S. gun law), but the company is based in a country that bans the civilian ownership of firearms.
The taboo nature of gun ownership in China has led many Chinese-Americans and students studying in the U.S. to head to a gun range to explore shooting in a safe environment. As student Xinlu Liang wrote at the website L.A. Taco last July:
“Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun,” former Chinese communist leader Mao Zedong once remarked. Echoing his words, China banned private gun ownership across the nation in 1996, when Law of the People’s Republic of China on the Control of Firearms took effect. By law, no civilian may acquire, possess or transfer a firearm or ammunition.
Across the Pacific, however, as Chinese communities mushroom in California, more Chinese immigrants can be found in shooting ranges or have firearms at home for protection. This rising interest in the Second Amendment comes as hate crimes, assaults, and reports of harassment against the Asian American and Pacific Islander community are also increasing.
The full story is worth a read, not only for Liang’s own experience with shooting a gun for the first time but his exploration of why American gun culture is surprisingly popular among those who aren’t allowed to own a gun at home.
As for TikTok, while some of the videos that Media Matters highlighted have been removed from the site, I was still able to find plenty of gun-related content with just a quick perusal of the platform’s website. With the large number of gun enthusiasts on the app, it would be incredibly difficult for TikTok to get rid of every post involving a gun, even if they were to ban the use of popular gun-related hashtags. The company may be able to turn down the noise, but it can’t stop the signal completely.
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