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McKeesport gun shop will go ahead with giveaway

| Monday, April 22, 2013, 9:17 p.m.

A McKeesport gun shop plans to proceed with its second free firearms giveaway despite a dust-up that led Facebook to shut down its page and delay the contest.

“The contest is still going to happen, regardless of Facebook,” said Erik Lowry, 33, of West Mifflin, owner of Pittsburgh Tactical Firearms on Walnut Street. “Right now, we are kind of waiting to see what happens.”

Facebook officials on Friday shut down the company's page and on Monday sent an email stating the company violated Facebook policy, Lowry said.

Facebook spokesman Frederic Wolens declined to comment but referred to company advertising guidelines that prohibit the promotion or sale of firearms on commercial pages.

New York-based website Vocativ on April 18 posted an article about Facebook groups participating in firearms-related sweepstakes. Such giveaways spiked to 36 this month, compared to nine in November, Vocativ reported.

“Our ad guidelines prohibit promotion of the sale of weapons, and the ad guidelines apply to pages with commercial content on them,” the report quoted a Facebook spokesman as saying. At that time, the spokesman said the company was unaware of such giveaways. “Ads may not promote the sale or use of weapons, ammunition or explosives. Most of these should be removed, per our terms.”

Lowry said his business paid Facebook about $5,000 to advertise its biggest giveaway to date — an AR-15 style rifle, ammunition and other gear amounting to $10,000. Participants entered by clicking to “like” the page. The company intended to announce the winner on Sunday but put the contest on hold when Facebook shut down the page, Lowry said.

The company is using the “Miss Pittsburgh Tactical” Facebook page as a rally site, he said. He hopes to have the Pittsburgh Tactical Firearms page back up soon and promised to comply with Facebook regulations.

Company contests on the website will use Facebook to link interested people, he said.

Such giveaways are legal, Lowry said. “We didn't break any laws.”

A spokesman with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives did not return a message.

Lowry said if a Pittsburgh-area person won the contest, he or she would be required to come to his shop to pass required background checks before receiving the merchandise. If the winner lived in another state, the merchandise or vouchers would be sent to a licensed firearms dealer in that state, who would conduct background checks before releasing the items, he said.

To not conduct such background checks is “illegal,” Lowry said. “That's a felony.”

A West Virginia man won the first giveaway, which featured a military-style rifle, ammunition and cartridges. The items were collected by his son in Corpus Christi, Texas, Lowry said.

In February, Tim Benz offered to step down as co-host of the “Morning Show” on Pittsburgh's alternative rock radio station 105.9 The X because of controversy that arose after his on-air and online comments involving Pittsburgh Tactical Firearm's first giveaway.

After a two-day absence, Benz resumed his “Morning Show” duties. Benz, whose wife is a Tribune-Review columnist, supports Facebook's actions.

Lowry said he just wants a resolution — and to have his company's page restored.

“It is what it is,” he said. “We are at Facebook's mercy.”

Jason Cato is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7936 or jcato@tribweb.com.

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