An investigation published this morning by Mother Jones shows that Reddit licensed gun-sellers on its forums to hawk a notorious run of AR-15 assault rifles with the company's logo, while the website was owned by media giant Condé Nast.

The weapons—which drew this site's attention shortly after the Sandy Hook massacre, in which Adam Lanza used a similar model AR-15 to massacre 26 children and schoolteachers—have a copy of the Reddit alien logo stamped on the lower receiver. But Mother Jones' investigation finds that the Redditors behind the gun wanted to sell it on the site's freewheelin' forums with another modification: Changing the "SAFE/FIRE" settings on the rifle's safety to "UPVOTE/DOWNVOTE."

In mid-2011, one of those Redditors "emailed Jena Donlin, a business development manager for Reddit working in Condé Nast's headquarters in New York":

A group of about 35 (or so) members of the sub Reddit /r/guns want to engrave your alien logo in a lower receiver. We do not plan to sell the product and the vendor is not making a profit on the engraving or the lowers themselves. We are doing this as a group buy to save money. What would the licensing cost be to uses [sic] this for personal non-profit uses? A lower receiver is the frame of an AR-15.

The website says it's willing to entertain licensing requests for any use of the logo that "enhances the reddit experience." Pro-gun enthusiasts have become a large fixture of Reddit's forums, and it may have made sense to the company to identify with them. ("Reddit says that prior to granting a license—which it requires for products sold at cost or for profit—it asks a series of questions," the Mother Jones investigation reported. "Among them are: 'Do we like the product?'")

The company's answer to the AR-15 enthusiasts was a "yes, but":

You have reddit's permission to engrave the reddit alien on the frame of the AR-15 given that it is a group not-for-profit buy. There is a lot of reservation on our team about the language on the safety. We would prefer that you keep the SAFE/FIRE language (rather than changing to downvote/upvote) to ensure the safety of all people who may come in contact with these guns.

But if Reddit is concerned about gun safety, they might want to do a better job of policing firearms sales on their own forum, r/gunsforsale; as the investigation notes, the company has no way of discerning whether sellers on the site are personal collectors making legal transactions, licensed dealers performing required background checks, or anonymous crazies breaking a host of laws.

[Photo credit: Reddit via Mother Jones]