The Three Tiers of Providers As It Relates to The Firearm Industry

As a business owner in the firearm industry, I have the task of navigating service providers as it relates to their company policies on firearms and weapons.

This often means we may not be able to do business with or work with service providers because they have decided our association with the firearm industry makes us toxic. And working with us, despite our business being fully legal, may cause them social harm or liability they want to avoid.

In helping other business owners navigate this complex problem I've found the easiest way to simplify what might otherwise seem like a complex issue is to group these service providers into 3 groups.

These 3 buckets, categories, or tiers as I prefer, are groups of providers that share similar policies relating to working with firearm-related companies.

Please do not mistake this as an article about companies that are anti or pro-gun. That is a conversation that generally revolves around retail operations and the policies they have relating to bringing a firearm onto their property or into their store/restaurant/theater/establishment. This has nothing to do with that.

What Kinds of Service Providers Are We Talking About?

Any modern business is going to have a need to contract with and hire other companies. It is those service providers that we are exploring in this article.

Examples may include website hosting services, merchant providers, email marketing services, software providers, accounting services, publishers (specifically those that sell advertising), online marketplaces (like eBay or Amazon), banks, and lenders.

Who is a Tier 1 Provider?

I group together companies into Tier 1 that are completely firearm friendly. These are often companies that exist specifically to tailor to the firearm industry and have no conflict at all with working with gun stores, knife manufacturers, etc.

I call them Tier 1 because in an ideal world we would work exclusively with these companies because they support our Second Amendment rights and the firearm business industry, and by supporting them we strengthen the industry as a whole and encourage more companies to have Tier 1 policies.

The bad news is that Tier 1 providers are almost always more expensive. They serve a niche market, so they tend to get less business volume overall, and as such, they charge a premium for their services. If you are an FFL and sell guns and/or ammo you will almost certainly be restricted to working with Tier 1 companies.

Also, consider that businesses have a need to reduce their own liability and protect themselves, and to do so in our industry, unfortunately, means buying expensive insurance which means charging more for their product so they can afford that insurance.

This tends to lead to an environment where a lot of firearm-related businesses who can get away with it end up working with Tier 2 providers where they can.

Who is a Tier 2 Provider?

I group together companies into Tier 2 that have policies against some things related to firearms but not all things. This often takes the form of not doing business with an FFL (gun dealer) but doing business with a firearm instructor or a business that sells firearm accessories only.

While Tier 2 companies all have slightly different policies, they are all roughly the same, too, which is why it is so easy to put them all in the same bucket. In short Tier 2 providers will not do business with someone who sells any of the following:

Firearms, ammunition, knives, tasers, pepper spray, brass knuckles, throwing stars, or anything else that could otherwise be interpreted to be a “weapon.”

That list is generic. There are going to be some Tier 2 companies on my list whose “naughty list” may not include one or more things mentioned above and/or who have a few other things on their naughty list that I've neglected but those are exceptions, not the rule.

The vast majority of companies are going to have policies that make them Tier 2 providers. Certainly, the largest and best-branded companies you have heard of are probably in this group. They don't want to say no to the industry as a whole, yet they want to avoid the products they consider most toxic or with the most potential liability in their perspective.

Who is a Tier 3 Provider?

I group together companies into Tier 3 that outright refuse to do business with any company associated with the firearm industry.

Tier 3 companies don't care if the only thing you do as a company is selling gun safes to protect little children from guns, they still consider that a part of the firearm industry and want nothing to do with you.

These companies may have varying degrees of effectiveness in enforcing their policy but to do business with them means at any time they may discover “who you are” and cut you off for violating their policies or terms of service. It's a risk I don't recommend, and frankly is unnecessary.

Inconsistent Enforcement Is The Worst

Last warning before you scroll down and start referencing companies I've cataloged for your convenience.

Not all companies are consistent in the enforcement of their policies. Certainly, there are those who profess to be Tier 3 providers but do business with plenty of firearm-related companies.

The opposite happens as well. There are companies who profess to be Tier 2 but then cut off or shut down companies who fully comply with the Tier 2 policies. Paypal is the example that comes to mind.

While I certainly think you should only work with providers whose policies you can perfectly comply with, you should also be wary of Tier 2 companies that seem to reach beyond their own policy and arbitrarily shut down customers who are fully compliant.

A Catalog for Your Convenience:

Below I've attempted to add a list of companies organized by tier and then by business category. This is in no way complete but is limited by my own knowledge and experience. If you are aware of something I'm missing, please let me know in the comments and please provide proof or evidence. I will update this when I receive new information or am made aware of additions.

Tier 1 Providers:

Banks: CCBank

Business Insurance: Joseph Chiarello & Co, Hobson Insurance, Specialty Insurance Consultants LLC, Breckenridge Insurance, Lockton Affinity, Outdoor Sports & Recreation Insurance (OSR), Sage Program Underwriters, XINSURANCE

Firearm Instructor Insurance: Firearm Trainers Association, Lockton Affinity

Merchant Provider: Electronic Transfer Inc, Payroc, Clearent, Revere Payments, Verde

Lender: SBA Loan Group

Tier 2 Providers:

Advertising: Bing, Facebook, Google, Pinterest, Yahoo

Banks: Bank of America, CitiBank

Marketplaces: Amazon (note Amazon also prohibits anything that is associated with a carbine), eBay

Merchant Providers: PayPal, Stripe, Square

Web hosts: Amazon, Shopify, Square, Wix, WordPress.com (Please note WordPress.com is NOT the same as WordPress.org which is a self-hosted CMS)

Tier 3 Providers:

Business Insurance: The Hartford

Lender: Funding Circle, Loanbuilder by Paypal

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