Groupon Halts All Gun-Related Deals

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Jan. 22 2013 11:05 AM

Groupon Halts Gun-Related Deals It Had Previously Vowed To Avoid

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Screenshot of a Groupon deal from earlier this month for a concealed carry course in Cedar Rapids, Iowa

Bargain hunters looking for a deal on a trip to the shooting range, a conceal-and-carry training class or anything else involving guns will now have to look elsewhere, Groupon announced Monday evening.

"All scheduled and current gun-related deals featured on Groupon North America, including shooting ranges, conceal-and-carry and clay shooting, have been placed on hiatus while we review internal standards that shape the deal inventory we feature," Groupon spokeswoman Julie Mossler said in an emailed statement to reporters. "The category is under review following recent consumer and merchant feedback."

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The deal-a-day website didn't say exactly why they've suspended such deals, although it's probably safe to assume that the move is pretty directly linked with the current gun-control debate that was sparked by last month's tragedy in Newtown, where 20 young students and six school staff members were gunned down at Sandy Hook Elementary by Adam Lanza. A number of companies responded to that tragedy by doing their best to put a little distance between themselves and guns. Private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management, for instance, sold its stake in the firearm conglomerate that made the rifle used by Lanza. Dick's Sporting Goods, meanwhile, pulled certain firearms off its stores' shelves.

It isn't exactly clear when Groupon first began offering gun-related deals. [See update below.] I received one for a conceal-and-cary course earlier this month (that's a screenshot of it at the top of the post). The coupon's copy included this somewhat awkward line: "A bullet travels at hundreds of miles per hour, much like a beam of light or a kiss blown by Paul Bunyan. Work on your quick-draw skills with this Groupon."

Back in the spring of 2011, the site specifically listed gun deals as something that it actively avoided—along with abortion and Donald Trump. "Enough consumers have contacted us to warrant ensuring that we don’t place ads on the Apprentice homepage in the future," the company wrote in a blog post responding to complaints that the site's ads were running on the website for Trump's NBC show at a time when the reality star was loudly beating the birther drum. "It’s the same reason we don’t run deals on guns or abortion…this isn’t a political statement, it’s avoiding intentionally upsetting a segment of our customers." (elipsis theirs; emphasis mine)

I've contacted the company in hopes they can clear up the confusion. I'll update if/when I hear back from them. [Update 1:05 p.m.: Groupon spokeswoman Julie Mossier emails to say that the company began offering gun-related deals in early 2012: "We began testing this category early last year in various markets around the country, at the request of our subscribers."]

Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City. 

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