Salesforce says it won’t work with retailers that sell semi-automatic weapons

Tech giant Salesforce has entered the debate over gun control in the US with a policy that forbids customers who use its software from selling certain firearms. The ban applies to semi-automatic weapons, 3D-printed guns, and a range of accessories, including large-capacity magazines and devices that make semi-automatic guns fully automatic.

The policy was made official on April 11th this year, according to company documents, but was highlighted in a recent story by The Washington Post. The Post notes that it’s not clear how many companies the policy affects, but says at least one retailer, Camping World, has been told to either stop selling guns or stop using Salesforce software.

A spokesperson for Salesforce confirmed the change to The Verge: “After carefully reviewing similar policies in the industry and discussing with internal and external stakeholders, we updated our policy. The change affects new customers and a small number of existing customers when their current contracts expire.”

A person familiar with the situation said Salesforce employees had been informed about the policy in early April, and that the internal motivation was to keep the company in line with peers like Amazon (which doesn’t sell semiautomatic weapons and certain accessories).

Salesforce is a quiet giant in the online ecosystem, helping companies talk to customers

The move is significant though. Although Salesforce and its businesses are not well-known (when Googling the company, the first suggested question is: “What exactly does Salesforce do?”), it plays a crucial role in the online ecosystem, including retail.

The services it provides help companies interact with customers by tracking their activity, complaints, purchases, and preferences. Salesforce has more than 150,000 clients, including giants like Adidas and American Express, and a market cap of $118 billion.

Salesforce is known also for its forthright CEO, Marc Benioff, who regularly speaks out on social issues, including gun control. Following the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida last February, Benioff tweeted: “The AR-15 is the most popular rifle in America. Ban it.” He later said he would donate $1 million to March for Our Lives, a demonstration led by students supporting greater gun control measures.

The AR-15 is the most popular rifle in America. Ban it.

— Marc Benioff (@Benioff) February 15, 2018

As the Post’s story notes, if Salesforce refuses to work with retailers that sell semi-automatic weapons, it could spark a backlash in some sections of society. Mark Oliva, a spokesperson for the National Shooting Sports Foundation, told the Post that the company was engaging in “corporate-policy virtue signaling” and that its actions would have a “chilling effect.”

The new restrictions in Salesforce’s policy can be read below:

Worldwide, customers may not use a Service to transact online sales of any of the following firearms and/or related accessories to private citizens. Firearms: automatic firearms; semi-automatic firearms that have the capacity to accept a detachable magazine and any of the following: thumbhole stock, folding or telescoping stock, grenade launcher or flare launcher, flash or sound suppressor, forward pistol grip, pistol grip (in the case of a rifle) or second pistol grip (in the case of a pistol), barrel shroud; semi-automatic firearms with a fixed magazine that can accept more than 10 rounds; ghost guns; 3D printed guns; firearms without serial numbers; .50 BMG rifles; firearms that use .50 BMG ammunition. Firearm Parts: magazines capable of accepting more than 10 rounds; flash or sound suppressors; multi-burst trigger devices; grenade or rocket launchers; 80% or unfinished lower receivers; blueprints for ghost guns; blueprints for 3D printed guns; barrel shrouds; thumbhole stocks; threaded barrels capable of accepting a flash suppressor or sound suppressor.

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