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Texas Gun Shop Owner Refuses to Hand Over Social Media in Bankruptcy

The owner of a Texas gun shop, Tactical Firearms, has made the decision to stay in jail after losing the store in a bankruptcy proceeding. The alternative? Owner Jeremy Alcede would have to hand over the gun store's Twitter and Facebook account passwords.

Alcede was ordered by a Houston, bankruptcy judge to turn over the social media account information relating to his firearms business earlier this month, but he responded that these accounts are his personal property rather than that of Tactical Firearms.

Attempting to prove this belief Alcede changed the name of Tactical Firearms' Facebook page to “Jeremy Alcede Entrepreneur,” after the court hearing, and posted a personal video. Rather apropos, the video contains footage of Alcede being handcuffed while turning himself over to the U.S. Marshals.

The value of a social media account

Judge Bohm, in his April 3 opinion that tackled this relatively unsettled area of the law, referenced what he called Alcede's “manifestation of genuis” regarding his decision not to turn over the social media account information. Alcede, who is not only an advocate of the Second Amendment, is a self-proclaimed PR wunderkind who realizes the value of a social media account can provide for customers. Judge Bohm acknowledged this “mostly uncharted” question of social media accounts in bankruptcy proceedings.

One of the motivating factors behind Judge Bohm's request for the social media account information was the judge's hope to “stop the barrage of vitriol that Mr. Alcede currently posts online and outside of his store, but particularly on the store's Facebook page. Judge Bohm was referring to the the debtor, Tactical Firearms, and the constant negativity the debtor's charge, Alcede, expressed online Facebook page. Similar to these messages are these negative Facebook posts are the statements Alcede placed on the marquee sign outside of the gun shop, including the following phrases:

  • 'I like my guns like Obama likes is voters: undocumented.'
  • 'Threatening to sue POS Obama and pro open carry is why I love Greg Abbott.'
  • 'Honk if you support open carry. Don't tread on me.'
  • 'We have hit Barack bottom. Go vote red.'
  • 'Does one of Obama's family members have to be beheaded for “change” to happen?'
  • 'Will trade Obama to Mexico for Sgt. Tahmooressi. God help us all.'

A more subtle form of marketing

Alcede, in arguing that the social media accounts are his personal property as opposed to a facet of the Tactical Firearms business, Alcede referred to a Tweet regarding a firearms exposition in Las Vegas, Nevada, he had attended. Finding a singular Tweet about an activity Alcede participated in relating to the business furtherance of Tactical Firearms was inadequate to prove the store's social media accounts were Alcede's personal property, Judge Bohm stated:

“The very nature of social media dictates that its best use for business is somewhat more subtle than other forms of marketing. A tweet advertising the fact that the owner of a gun store is at a gun show, far from being especially ‘personal’ in nature, is a perfect example of this kind of subtle marketing. This tweet most assuredly served to develop Mr. Alcede’s reputation as being a well informed, connected insider in the gun-buying community, a reputation that would attract consumers to the business of Tactical Firearms that he was running at the time he issued this tweet.”

Although it certainly seems like the bankruptcy court is breaking new ground in the realm of social media and its overall recent permeance in the world of law, Judge Jeff Bohm pointed out that this is the modern version of an age-old dispute. “The dispute is a familiar story of a disgruntled former business partner attempting to stymie his former associate by seizing control of assets that do not belong to him,” Judge Bohm stated.

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