Alvin Bragg Claims Victory as Jim Jordan Seethes About YouTube Gun Vids

Photo Illustration by Elizabeth Brockway/The Daily Beast/Reuters
Photo Illustration by Elizabeth Brockway/The Daily Beast/Reuters

Jim Jordan (R-OH) has made himself the Republican gadfly attempting to sting Alvin Bragg, the Manhattan D.A. who has secured the first, and so far only, conviction of former president Donald Trump.

But now the biter appears to have been bitten–by none other than Bragg. Bragg’s office is taking credit for being part of efforts to have YouTube restrict content that shows people how to build firearms or make illegal modifications that allow them to rapidly fire ammunition on a fully automatic setting, confirming an angry claim made by Jordan.

Last week, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee sent the site’s parent company a letter demanding to know the story behind YouTube’s recent decision to block videos that provide such content.

Jordan’s letter is a legal request for Alphabet’s communications regarding its “interactions with the executive branch and other entities regarding changes to its firearms content policy.” It also called out Bragg by name, given that the prominent prosecutor publicly pressured YouTube in April over his concerns about the proliferation of how-to videos of “ghost guns,” homemade firearms that aren’t stamped with a serial number and are virtually untraceable.

But in the wake of that letter, Bragg’s office is actually doing something of a victory lap.

“The office stands by any efforts made to encourage companies to act responsibly and prevent children from accessing tutorials to manufacture dangerous guns that can be used in violent crimes,” a spokeswoman told The Daily Beast.

Alvin Bragg’s Case Against Trump Is Stronger Than You Think

YouTube did not respond to questions about whether Bragg’s public pressure campaign was the deciding factor in its decision to finally clamp down on gun videos. However, in reality, Bragg wasn’t the only one.

In 2021, the policy group Everytown for Gun Safety called on YouTube to take down videos that serve as detailed step-by-step instructional manuals on how to build unserialized pistol and rifle frames. Everytown warned the company that this trend “allows potentially dangerous or prohibited individuals to manufacture and own untraceable weapons without serial numbers or background checks.” There’s even a danger to experienced firearms enthusiasts who otherwise pose no harm to the public, given that 3D-printed guns are sometimes made of plastic that can’t withstand the explosion of a fired round inside the chamber.

The next year, five Democratic senators pleaded for YouTube to remove ghost gun videos as well, noting how “this content is a clear and direct violation of YouTube’s existing community guidelines on firearms.”

And in 2023, the Tech Transparency Project, which is funded by several social advocacy groups, released a study showing how YouTube’s video recommendation algorithms steer preteen and teenage gamers toward content about real life shootings and weapons—despite company assurances that its engineers “made delivering responsible recommendations” their “top priority.”

Viewed in that light, Bragg’s letter to YouTube in April requesting to meet face-to-face with YouTube representatives was merely the latest entreaty asking the company to abide by its own rules.

Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) speaks during a campaign rally hosted by Republican presidential candidate and former U.S. President Donald Trump at the Forum River Center in Rome, Georgia, U.S. March 9, 2024.

Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) speaks during a campaign rally hosted by Republican presidential candidate and former U.S. President Donald Trump at the Forum River Center in Rome, Georgia, U.S. March 9, 2024.

Alyssa Pointer/Reuters

But to Rep. Jordan, who sees conspiracies everywhere he looks, it’s all part of some underhanded leftist coercion scheme—as opposed to the desperate attempts of policymakers who are stuck between a rock and a hard place. Any politician who wants to zero-in on gun violence is essentially prohibited from trying to cut off the flow of weapons. For decades, Democrats haven’t made any headway with Republicans, who won’t agree to any kind of new gun restrictions whatsoever. And they can’t even fully utilize the Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives (ATF) law enforcement agency, which remains critically underfunded and just had the conservative-leaning Supreme Court overturn the Trump-era ban on bump stocks—the easily configured attachable gear that uses a fired weapon’s recoil to keep it jiggling in place to rapidly pull the trigger faster than anyone could naturally, essentially making it shoot like a sloppy machine gun.

In his letter, Jordan claimed that “YouTube has censored First Amendment-protected speech as a result of government agencies’ requests and demands in the past.” He went on to write that “these revelations raise serious concerns about whether and to what extent the executive branch is working with third parties and other intermediaries to coerce and/or collude with YouTube to censor lawful speech regarding the Second Amendment and firearms.”

However, Jordan couldn’t resist turning the letter into yet another partisan screed that somehow connected guns on YouTube to his fervent love of MAGA. In his letter to the company, Jordan wrote that Bragg “hired the third highest-ranking Department of Justice official to assist in his partisan prosecution of President Trump,” alluding to the fact that Bragg brought a prosecutor onboard to help develop the criminal case against Trump, which ended with a trial in which jurors concluded the former president committed 34 felonies.

However, it isn’t clear that YouTube is going very far at all with its new restrictions. Although the company claimed it would no longer allow videos that “provide instructions on manufacturing” things like ammunition, many videos are still online. Popular videos still show how to assemble a kit for making ammunition at home, a popular option for budget-conscious firearms enthusiasts who’d rather avoid the high prices of professionally manufactured hunting ammo. Others run through the basics, with detailed looks at how to operate machinery in a safe and clean manner. Taking these down would arguably endanger otherwise responsible gun owners who merely want more control over their own ammunition supply; for example, competition shooters and hunters sometimes prefer “hotter” loads that exceed the power of most factory-made cartridges.

Then again, YouTube has yet to eliminate the hundreds of videos that explain how to use milling machinery to professionally turn a hunk of metal into the functional part of a semiautomatic AR-15 rifle. An “80 percent lower,” as it's called, is essentially a metal piece that is four-fifths complete—an item that's easily purchased online without any government paperwork. As of Monday afternoon, typing in “80 percent” in YouTube’s search bar immediately triggers the algorithm to recommend “80 percent lower milling instructions.” The list of results is virtually endless.

Read more at The Daily Beast.

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