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Bumble’s Gun Ban, and Posing with Firearms on Dating Apps Post-Parkland

When I was regularly using dating apps, I’d occasionally stumble across a photo of a woman proudly posing with her sporting rifle, or wearing goggles and earmuffs and aiming her handgun down range at a target.

Living in L.A., these photos were exceedingly rare — but they did exist. Almost invariably, there would be another photo of the woman in some kind of stars-and-stripes-themed outfit, or a bio that indicated she was, at the very least, a political moderate, if not a self-identified conservative.

No one wants to add to the stress of online dating by trying to reconcile different political views with a partner, especially in these contentious times of ours. And the gun photos were intended as a first line of defense against such awkwardness — a way to signal on which side of the Culture War the women stood, and to instruct male callers to swipe left or right accordingly.

That practice, however, will no longer be allowed on popular dating app Bumble as the company announced on Monday that it will ban all photos on its platform of people posing with guns and knives, unless the user has a military or law enforcement background.

Already, the decision is garnering praise from gun control advocates…

…and criticism from guns-rights proponents, a debate that’s reached an unusually sustained fever pitch thanks to the teenage survivors of the Parkland, Florida, school shooting.

For its part, Bumble declined to answer questions about whether the ban will alienate any gun enthusiasts on its platform. Instead, the company pointed to its blog post about the ban:

Online behavior can both mirror and predict how people treat each other in the real world. Bumble has a responsibility to our users and a larger goal to encourage accountability offline.

In the past, when we’ve had an opportunity to make our platform safer, we’ve taken action, banning hate speech and inappropriate sexual content from the Bumble app. … From today on, we will begin the process of moderating all new and previously uploaded photos for the presence of guns.* Our terms and conditions will be updated to reflect this decision.

The statement implies gun ownership, in any form, is inherently dangerous, an assertion backed up by a host of studies showing a clear correlation between gun ownership and homicide rates in the U.S. And the decision falls in line with Bumble’s founding mission to provide a safer dating app experience, specifically for women.

But removing the expected right-wing freakout of Jones et al, Bumble’s gun ban does paint gun owners with an extremely broad brush. The policy separates out law enforcement and military personnel (that’s what the asterisk on the blog post was all about) but no one else (hunters, skeet shooters, hobbyists, etc.). Indeed, some have already accused Bumble of violating the Second Amendment.

It’s worth a reminder, though: The Second Amendment protects the right to bear arms; it doesn’t mean a private company is required to publish your shooting-range selfies. (The First Amendment works similarly.)

Beyond Bumble, gun photos are shockingly common on dating apps, specifically Tinder. In fact, a female Tinder user in Arizona compiled an entire Imgur album of male Tinder users in her area posing with guns. Take, for instance, Chet here, posing with his twin assault rifles and tactical vest — and nothing else.

And while gun-toting dating profile pictures are overwhelmingly male in nature, there are women who pose with guns, too. They hold a handgun and make the duck face. They take a mirror selfie with a revolver tucked into the waistband of their sweatpants. They point their revolvers and rifle barrels directly at the camera. And they engage in some truly unsettling gun-related BDSM play.

Off-putting as these images may be to some, they help some Tinder users establish a connection over their shared affection for firearms.

And so, how Tinder and other dating apps respond to Bumble’s change will be interesting — especially because all sorts of companies (from all sorts of industries) have shown a shocking willingness to break ties with the National Rifle Association in the wake of the Parkland shooting.

For now, though, on Bumble at least, the message is clear: Guns are no longer sexy, no matter the context.