We sat down with Rainier Arms founder and CEO John Hwang to discuss the rise of censorship in BigTech and how he was personally deplatformed by LinkedIn.
John and Topple agree—it’s time for a network where advertising aligns with freedom of speech. Read on to learn more about this self proclaimed “international arms dealer” and how he handles doing business in a firearm shy world.
Jenna Bostock: Hi John, great to see you. Could you please introduce yourself and tell me what your company does?
John Hwang: I am the CEO and founder of Rainier Arms. Rainier Arms sells firearms and accessories locally to civilians, to law enforcement, and also to governments and internationally.
You can call me an international arms dealer.
We also have a training facility and gun range in Wichita.
It started out as a hobby. I love firearms and it was something that I was very passionate about. I didn’t have all the money to buy everything I wanted so I found out how to become a dealer. I would buy five guns at dealer cost and sell four and basically keep mine for free. One thing led to another and next thing you know I’m knee-deep in the gun world.
Jenna Bostock: Can you tell me a bit about the challenges you face as a company that manufactures and sells a product that a lot of people might not like, but which is 100% legal?
John Hwang: It is an odd thing because it is 100% legal. It’s protected by our constitution, and our Second Amendment, but the business realm doesn’t necessarily like it.
The main challenges gun companies face are in a couple of areas. One is banking. Not a lot of banks will take a gun company on.
There is also the issue that insurance companies often won’t take on gun companies as clients.
The other challenge is you really can’t advertise.
When most industries want to advertise, they can do so freely. We’re not able to advertise with Google. We’re not able to advertise on Facebook, none of those typical channels. The industry puts handcuffs on us, and we’re limited to how we can get the word out.
Jenna Bostock: How has Rainier Arms been discriminated against in the advertising world?
John Hwang: I can’t advertise our core products, range training, our nonprofit veteran housing program…it all gets denied on Facebook.
They just won’t let us advertise at all. They don’t want our money.
I just got an email from Daniel Defense about a Super Bowl ad they were going to run that was banned at the last minute because they’re a firearms company. It was a very pure ad, didn’t even show a gun, and it still got banned. There’s just something very chilling about the current temperature of the media.
Jenna Bostock: How do you think that reflects on free speech and what America stands for?
John Hwang: The reason why the Second Amendment was installed is so the government doesn’t control its people. That we, the people, are the ones who are supposed to run the government. The government is now telling the people how to do things and controlling our speech.
If we lose our Second Amendment rights, the First Amendment rights are going to follow. People might think it’s radical but it becomes tyranny when the people don’t have free speech. Look around the world. It’s in our history books.
Whenever the government has too much control, bad things can happen. The government has always been there just to protect our rights and liberties, and that’s really it. Now they’ve overstepped and become our big brother.
Jenna Bostock: How do you feel about a company like Topple, that’s allowing brands to advertise anything that’s legal and advocating for free speech?
John Hwang: There’s definitely a need for Topple where firearms companies and other companies like that can freely express things, especially when they’re legal. Our voices shouldn’t be squashed at all. I agree with that. 100%. I’m excited to see what Topple can do.
Jenna Bostock: Us too! I understand you were recently kicked off of Linkedin without any explanation?
John Hwang: That’s right. One day I tried to log in and couldn’t, it said your account’s been deactivated. You need to go through some verification process. I scanned my license and sent that in, but there wasn’t a review or anything. Just an instant email coming back that says your account is permanently deleted.
Jenna Bostock: Permanently?
John Hwang: For “violating terms.” It was final. There is no going back. Anybody who thinks that these platforms we use are ours hasn’t been paying attention.
At the beginning, Instagram was very relaxed in their terms and agreements and then they got stricter over time. I would post items I had for sale, or let people know when something new was in stock. None of that was banned in the past, but now they are. I’ll get a notice that photos I posted years ago are being taken down now. Instagram hasn’t banned me, yet. But at any time, they could because I have eight infractions on that platform just from the terms changing.
We have been very careful on what we post going forward because we know the new rules. LinkedIn didn’t even warn me. I had over 5,000 connections and I was starting to use it more and gain some traction. It was just “You’re just banned.”
Quite honestly, I’m not upset about it. I’ll use a different platform, and I’ll just use places where I can still share my voice. I’ll go where I’m wanted.
People can preach so much hate and it goes unfiltered, right? All the Trump and Biden hate—it’s gone unchecked. So this doesn’t make sense to me. I’ve always tried to be uplifting and positive. I may sometimes disagree with big government and talk about liberty, but outside of that, I’m really talking about freedom. I still don’t understand why they would cancel my account.
Jenna Bostock: What you think about Elon Musk buying Twitter?
John Hwang: I think most 2A supporters believe it’s a good thing because he’s all about freedom of speech. Freedom of speech goes hand in hand with the 2A. We will wait to see how things change but I’m guessing Twitter will be good for the gun community.
Jenna Bostock: Is there any advice you’d like to leave with us, for other executives in industries that are being disadvantaged by Big Tech and discriminated against in the online advertising world?
John Hwang: What I try to do is use those networks that are available to us and play by their rules because ultimately, it’s their platform, and we have to play by the rules that they set, whether that’s fair or unfair. Often, it’s unfair.
I’m excited to hear about Topple and how you’re creating your own digital advertising network. We need more like-minded people to gather together and build new companies as large as Facebook or Instagram where people can say, “We’re sick of this censorship and we want this freedom.”
Jenna Bostock: It’s happening. Topple is here! No more black lists.
John Hwang: Can’t wait to see where it takes us. Thanks Jenna!
If you’re interested in following or connecting with John you can still find him on Twitter and Instagram.
EDITOR’S NOTE We interviewed former liberal turned libertarian, and widely acclaimed journalist, John Stossel, about his defamation lawsuit against Facebook. The case has already provided some fascinating insight into how Facebook’s “fact checking” program works, with Facebook stating that their fact-checking cannot be defamation because Facebook’s “facts” are merely their “opinions”. It’s a wild world…