The company said its decision was based on the belief that the Internet is not an appropriate venue for that kind of merchandise. Beginning March 5, firearms will not be listed in any categories, including the "Firearms," "Antique," "Collectibles," and "Sport" categories.
"While we acknowledge the gun collectors and sports enthusiasts among our users, eBay takes its role as a responsible member of the online community very seriously," Steve Westly, eBay's vice president of marketing and business development, said in a statement.
"After careful consideration of the issue, we believe the process of buying and selling firearms online is sufficiently different from the offline world, and it is appropriate for us to end the user listing of firearms on eBay," he said.
Westly added that online sellers cannot readily guarantee that buyers meet all the qualifications and comply with the laws governing firearm sales.
The company tried instituting changes to the firearm category but after investigating a variety of alternatives, eBay concluded that, in consideration of current technology and laws, no alternative met its standards.
"We realize that the sale of firearms is a controversial issue, and our stance will spark support as well as criticism," added Westly.
"A private enterprise can decide to sell or not sell anything they want," said a spokesman for the National Rifle Association, an organization that fights for the right to own firearms. "This has no effect on the right to own guns."
Sales of firearms were miniscule, representing less than one quarter of 1 percent of sales, said an eBay spokeswoman.
The company said that firearms-related items, such as holsters, literature, clothing, and scopes, may still be sold on eBay, but only listed in the "Collectibles: Western Americana," "Collectibles: Militaria," and "Miscellaneous: Sporting Goods: Hunting" categories.
eBay members who posted messages on the site's community boards were evenly divided among those supporting the company's decision and those against it.
"The way this venue is created, there is no way to absolutely guarantee that anyone is who they say they are--credit cards and id's can easily be copied--and there is no 'face to face,'" wrote one member. "Rather than have kids, sickos, and criminals buying guns via the Internet, everyone has to suffer!"
Another member said that he would no longer visit eBay because of the decision.
"Your new policy is ill advised, anti-freedom and anti-American," wrote one member. "I will personally quit eBay, advise everyone I know to avoid eBay and its stock."
The company plans to hold public forums on next week to answer questions from community members about the firearms policy.