All of the assault weapon parts available on eBay that Reveal identified in a recent article have been removed, sold or reposted, a review of the website found.

The parts violate eBay’s firearms policy, which prohibits the sale of “parts or accessories for assault weapons.” Reveal found hundreds of parts that went undetected by eBay’s keyword filtering system. Even when a Reveal reporter flagged items for removal, they remained up for sale weeks later.

An eBay spokeswoman wouldn’t comment on any efforts the company has made to enforce its strict policy.

However, an eBay representative confirmed that the company had suspended the account of one seller who specializes in AR-15 semi-automatic rifle parts the same day that Reveal disclosed that the company was selling this AR-15 barrel. Nevada-based sfars_llc’s eBay account was shut down March 11.

An eBay representative confirmed that the company had suspended the account of Nevada-based seller sfars_llc on March 11, the same day that Reveal disclosed that the company was selling this AR-15 barrel.Credit: Screen shot from eBay.com Credit: Screen shot from eBay.com

With the digital storefront now empty, visitors are greeted with a small message in red type: sfars_llc – short for “Sh*t for AR’s” – is “No longer a registered user.”

The AR-15 barrel wasn’t the first assault weapon part that caused eBay to contact sfars_llc’s president, Ried Bridges. At least five banned gun parts have been removed from Bridges’ eBay store since January 2014, a representative from eBay’s listing policy department told Reveal.

Generally, sellers are given an opportunity to appeal a suspension. However, since eBay had removed multiple assault weapon parts listed by Bridges, it did not give him a chance to appeal, the representative said. Bridges did not respond to repeated requests for comment for this story.

EBay spokeswoman Kari Ramirez declined to answer questions about why the company deactivated Bridges’ account. After initially agreeing to make a policy manager available for an interview, Ramirez rescinded the offer. Subsequent requests to talk to a member of eBay’s San Jose, California-based policy team were denied.

“We regularly review our listings on eBay and have removed items that are in violation,” Ramirez said in an emailed statement. “As for the specifics of the seller, I can’t comment due to our privacy and user agreements.”

While Bridges no longer can list gun parts on eBay, other sellers continue to add prohibited parts every day. A review of the site found numerous gun parts for sale, including this vertical grip that’s compatible with the popular AR-15 rifle platform.

When Reveal flagged the item over the phone on Wednesday, a representative with eBay’s listing policy department said it violated the company’s policy and would be removed within 72 hours. The grip disappeared the next day. It’s one of hundreds of items being sold by gun parts dealer BravoTac, which operates out of a Southern California warehouse.

BravoTac owner Alex Segal previously told Reveal that selling gun parts online was more profitable than selling complete guns. While Segal declined to disclose how much money he made selling gun parts on eBay, he said it was “a six-figure number every month.”

An email to BravoTac seeking comment for this story brought this response: “There is no Alex working here and everything or anything that has been mentioned to you is not true. Please do not contact us again.”

BravoTac had been temporarily restricted for selling assault weapon parts as recently as last month. Ramirez, the eBay spokeswoman, would not say why some sellers were allowed to continue posting to the website after repeatedly listing gun parts that violate the online company’s policy.

Allowing sellers to sell more items remains eBay’s top priority, according to Kevin North, president and CEO of eBay partner Terapeak Inc.

North’s company uses an online tool to help sellers optimize their listings and boost sales. Among other things, Terapeak will suggest words to include and exclude from listings, North said. Excluding certain keywords is one of the ways that sellers can skirt eBay’s automated filters that flag banned items, but North said Terapeak’s tool does not help sellers avoid eBay’s keyword filters.

Terapeak bases its suggestions to sellers on transaction data going back to 2004, when it reached an agreement with eBay to independently analyze the data.

“This partnership exists because both companies have an express desire to improve merchant success,” North said. “Our whole mission is to allow sellers to sell more, and build their business.”

North said eBay takes enforcing its firearms policy very seriously, and is good at finding and removing banned items.

Matt Drange is a reporter for Reveal, covering the business of guns. He previously reported on Silicon Valley and the intersection of technology and the environment. He won a James Madison Freedom of Information Award from the Society of Professional Journalists' Northern California chapter for his work on the Toxic Trail investigation, which exposed how mismanagement of Superfund cleanup sites often leads to substantially more harm than good. Prior to joining Reveal, Drange worked for the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting, where he wrote about malfeasance in state government and the influence of money in politics. Drange started his career covering police and courts for the Eureka Times-Standard in California. He earned a master's degree from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and did his undergraduate work at Humboldt State University. Drange is based in Reveal's Emeryville, California, office.