Should everyone who’s been convicted of or pled guilty to a crime be subject to a social media ban? That seems to be what NBC News reporter David Ingram is advocating for in a new report on Larry Vickers, who’s currently awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty to illegally importing machine guns into the country.
Thanks at least in part to Ingram’s “investigation,” YouTube recently demonetized Vickers’ channel, but his NBC News report suggests that Ingram has a problem with Vickers’ videos still being available to watch.
But his admissions of guilt have done relatively little to dent his profile on YouTube, Facebook or any of the other internet platforms that helped make Vickers famous within the online gun community. He’s still posting updates to his fan base of 415,000 followers on Facebook while he awaits sentencing, and the hundreds of videos featuring him using various machine guns are still available on YouTube.
The criminal case is intertwined with what Vickers has posted on YouTube, where he has over 1 million subscribers. In several YouTube videos, Vickers showed off machine guns that match the descriptions of weapons mentioned in court documents as illegally imported before he made the videos, according to a review by NBC News. It’s not known if they were the same weapons. If they were, Vickers was in effect exhibiting evidence of the conspiracy on YouTube.
Other videos that he posted to YouTube and Instagram showcase the Russian firearms company Kalashnikov, maker of the infamous AK-47. Those videos are connected to the second criminal count against Vickers: that he violated U.S. sanctions on Russia by providing Kalashnikov with “promotional videography” and other services. Vickers has 179,000 followers on Instagram.
The “infamous” AK-47? There are estimated to be about 100 million in existence, so I’d have gone with the term “ubiquitous” instead, but then, I’m not interested in helping the gun control lobby silence gun owners on social media. In his report, Ingram not only mentions that Everytown for Gun Safety had also tried to get YouTube to “enforce its own policies against Vickers and other creators of gun content,” but gave the anti-gun group plenty of space to vent its frustrations over the fact that it’s not hard to find videos of people having fun while shooting on the streaming service.
“YouTube is a cesspool of violent and irresponsible gun content,” Justin Wagner, senior director of investigations at Everytown, said in a statement to NBC News.
“Videos that teach civilians military shooting tactics or whose sole purpose is to glamorize fully automatic weapons of war go far beyond educational content for responsible civilian gun owners and shouldn’t be permitted on YouTube’s platform,” he said.
You’d think after an incendiary comment like that, we’d at least get a sentence or two of rebuttal from a 2A influencer, but beyond reaching out to Vickers and his attorney, Ingram doesn’t mention trying to find anyone who could offer a response to Everytown’s chilling statement about banning videos featuring firearms instruction or even a fun day at the range. Instead, he allowed Wagner’s authoritarian take to go unchallenged, offering no pushback or even questioning him about who, exactly, should decide what constitutes “educational content” about guns.
If the anti-gunners had their way, our voices would be silenced across the media spectrum, and they’re doing their best to turn that dystopian dream into a reality. We’re not only seeing channels like Vickers demonetized but also social media shadow bans, SEO shenanigans, and other efforts to push gun owners and our opinions into the shadows.
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