Exclusive: A ‘Program of Discrimination’: Kickstarter Refuses to Help Company Making Child Locks for Guns

Exclusive: A 'Program of Discrimination': Kickstarter Refuses to Help Company Making Child Locks for Guns
Kickstarter’s anti-gun policies make it difficult for inventors to bring their products to the commercial and military markets. (Photo: Kickstarter)

When Dave Hellekson invented the Pumalock Interrupter, he hoped to fund his new venture by launching a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter. While the popular website prohibits funding for “weapon accessories,” Helleckson’s quick-access gun lock is, by definition, not an accessory.

That’s why he was surprised when Kickstarter instantly rejected his campaign. Assuming the company’s bots had mistakenly flagged his product, he reached out to a customer service agent, who replied:

“We disallow any weapons accessories regardless of their intended use. As such, we would not be able to approve this project, per both Kickstarter’s rules and the rules of our payments processor.”

Hellekson has initiated an official appeal, but this rejection means he’ll miss the crucial Christmas buying season so essential to startup businesses. He also feels like Kickstarter has singled him out due to his product’s connection to the gun industry.

“I don’t like being discriminated against like this, particularly on a legal product,” he said in an interview with GunsAmerica. “It really sucks, to be honest. I was absolutely furious this weekend when they sent me the refusal letter. It doesn’t make sense. Why would they want kids to die?”

Hellekson argues that the Pumalock Interrupter should not be categorized as an accessory because it doesn’t enhance the beauty, convenience, or effectiveness of a firearm, as most dictionaries define the word “accessory.” Unlike a trigger or a light or a sighting system, Hellekson’s fingerprint lock impedes the functioning of a firearm. The simple cable runs through the firearm’s receiver and keeps it from being used until the owner unlocks it with his or her fingerprint.

If Kickstarter doesn’t come through, Hellekson isn’t sure where he’ll find another investor. The corporate crusade against the firearms industry—what he calls a “program of discrimination”—doesn’t end with Kickstarter. The other major crowdfunding site, Indiegogo, has the same policy against firearm “accessories,” and Hellekson’s applications for business loans have been rejected by both Bank of America and Chase.

“If you even mention guns, they slam the door shut on you,” he said. “I find it very frustrating. Weapons are part of the Constitution. How can these businesses ignore that?”

Kickstarter did not respond to multiple requests for comment on this story.

SEE ALSO: Exclusive: Financial Attacks Continue as Franklin Armory, RMR Bullets Report Discrimination

Crushing Innovation

Hellekson isn’t alone. Dozens, perhaps hundreds, of inventors have faced similar blacklisting, and the marginalization of the gun industry could have long-term effects on both the industry and America’s national security.

That’s the argument made by Larry Lopata, the CEO of Gun Dynamics, a crowdfunding website specifically dedicated to firearms-related products.

Lopata helped start Gun Dynamics after being rejected from Kickstarter for trying to fund a new kind of 1911 trigger. But he soon realized that helping inventors working on gun-related products could have much larger consequences.

“If you’re going to repress a perfectly legitimate business, what’s next? I felt there was a real patriotic, constitutional line that was being drawn,” he told GunsAmerica. “Russia and China are building their militaries. Our army is all beat up. These [inventors] are the guys who might have the next great idea to keep us safe, to help us keep our competitive edge.”

While he respects Kickstarter’s freedom to institute their own policies, he believes investing in gun-related inventions is crucial to our country’s continued dominance on the world stage.

“I understand why they’re doing it, but I find it reckless and dangerous,” he said. “It’s like cutting your nose to spite your face. These [inventors] can’t get loans. They’re on the second mortgage of their house. We realized we really needed to support these people.”

SEE ALSO: Conservative Candidates for Governor Vow to Stop Discrimination Against Georgia Gun Companies

Gun Dynamics launched in April of 2018 and was immediately flooded with inquiries. Lopata said they expected 10 or 12 projects in the first year but received over 30 inquiries in the first 30 days. Today their website lists eight products in which individuals can invest, and the team at Gun Dynamics also helps connect inventors with lawyers, accountants, and law enforcement experts.

Even more importantly, Lopata said the U.S. military is evaluating five or six of the technologies that had initially approached Gun Dynamics after being rejected by companies like Kickstarter.

“So exactly what I feared happened! These people had nowhere to go,” he said.

One of those products is designed by a company called Dimensional Weapon Systems. It allows users to track and record via blockchain encryption the movements of a firearm, including when a shot is fired. It also alerts users when the firearm needs to be repaired or retired. The U.S. Army is currently reviewing this “smart gun” system, and officials hope it will be able to diagnose more efficiently when a rifle needs to be repaired or replaced.

Lopata didn’t want to speculate on Kickstarter’s rationale for rejecting these kinds of potentially life-saving technologies. But he did acknowledge that, on the surface, the decision doesn’t make sense.

“I think you have a situation where people have emotional responses over rational responses,” he said. “I don’t mind if you have an educated opinion on something, but I do get concerned when you have an emotional opinion on something, and you can’t back it up with facts.”

Hellekson has approached Gun Dynamics, and his product is in the initial review process. Lopata hopes he and his team can help inventors like Hellekson when no one else will.

“He’s exactly the reason we started this.”

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  • Jim December 28, 2019, 10:20 am

    Maybe they are not backing it because this idea has been done. No they do not require a metal key but they do require a fingerprint which I feel is much more intrusive “key”. While I m very much a believer in the 2nd Amendment I do NOT think it is the governments job to step in and force a company to back a product or ban a product unless it is a safety hazard in itself. If the product is good, then it will sell on its own.

  • Jay December 28, 2019, 9:15 am

    I agree they have a right not to allow whom ever they want, however maybe they need to remember where those rights come from and what they are protected by for them to even have he right to refuse someone. If their action was not discriminatory in any way they would’ve responded in a like manner explaining their actions and that would be the end of it, but they dodged any request to respond, pretty much says it all!

  • Michael A. Gilliam December 27, 2019, 7:08 pm

    Remember, they don’t care how far a long as child is in his or her development. This is just their way of continuing abortions.

  • Kevin December 27, 2019, 2:46 pm

    Get over it. A private company can and should be able to manufacture, or not, whatever they want. Remember the bakery in Colorado that refused to bake for a gay wedding, it’s their right, get your product somewhere else.

  • Falphil December 27, 2019, 1:45 pm

    Their house, their rules. You don’t like it? Build your own platform.

  • Joe December 27, 2019, 12:00 pm

    I agree with kickstarter, if they make an exception for you, then others will follow, they aren’t discriminating at all, as to where you’re going to find funds at that isn’t their problem, its yours

  • Will December 27, 2019, 11:34 am

    The primary reason kickstarter doesn’t allow firearm related items isn’t because of anti-2A crap. They actualy made the rule years ago thanks to a large number of VERY expensive ghostware rip-offs. I got taken personally for a few hundred bucks on some “highly reputed” 80% receiver & 3D printer startups. This is also what prompted the more stringent escrow rules coming the the raised money. Originaly Kickstarter was very 2A friendly.

    Not everything anti-2A is pinko-commie based… some of it comes directly from our own community screwing up.

    • deanbob December 27, 2019, 1:31 pm

      Thank you for that info; I had no idea.

  • ArmedCitizenX December 27, 2019, 11:00 am

    For some reason, no one realizes this is discrimination. File a class action suit. If they told all white people, they couldn’t use their platform, do you think they would still have a platform.

  • Mr. Sparkles December 27, 2019, 10:03 am

    While some respect kickstarter’s “rights” I find their position discriminatory and therefore illegal. I will be keeping my eyes open for opportunities to not support them in any way possible and to steer my business towards non-discriminatory organizations.

  • Blasted Cap December 27, 2019, 9:48 am

    Call it a cable lock, or something, get your funding and production rolling then say it’s suitable for use as a firearm lock.

  • Wayne Hynes December 27, 2019, 9:41 am

    …a tech savvy 2A supporter could start a “Shoestring Startup” investor app, no?

    • PB- dave December 27, 2019, 10:12 am

      I’m not highly tech savvy, but the app needs a place to be used, correct ? Can browsers, carriers, search engines , etc…, ban certain content ? Good idea, but will you have a track to run your horse on ?

  • srsquidizen December 27, 2019, 8:41 am

    The utter hypocrisy of gun haters is beyond appalling. They rant about “gun violence” killing kids. But if you back out criminals who kill like adults but are still technically minors, most shootings that involve children are accidental. Then these idiots blackball a product expressly made to prevent those accidents from happening.

  • Buck December 27, 2019, 8:05 am

    Sell stock?

  • Hugh Munoz December 27, 2019, 6:38 am

    Kickstarter allows Drone advertising. Aren’t Drones a weapon accessory?

    • Jim December 28, 2019, 10:30 am

      What they call it is up to the manufacturers, not the government. Governments should NOT tell you what you HAVE to produce anymore than telling you what you cannot make as long as it isn’t self-destructive.

  • Larry C December 27, 2019, 5:51 am

    Why is he playing around with the big eastrn socialist banks?
    Get the H*ll out of there and go west!
    As an example; The Evans Bank of Idaho or the Idaho Central Credit Union. There are other regional financial institutions in the west that would jump at the chance to help.

    The management of those institutions are progun. Many of them “pack” on a daily basis.

  • Michael December 27, 2019, 5:18 am

    Why aren’t they being sued ? I’m willing to bet they get a subsidy somewhere. Just as all the tech giants. But yet they can ban you or your 1A. Sorry can’t have it both ways.

  • Steve Eisenberg December 27, 2019, 4:45 am

    The Left is not interested in the contents of the Constitution, which is basically a list of things the government is not allowed to do.

  • Dr Motown December 25, 2019, 4:33 am

    Koodoos to Larry Lapata and any other libertarian-minded entrepreneur who takes on the lefto-fascists

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