No one is saying you can’t own a gun. No one is saying you can’t sell a gun. You just can’t sell a gun on Facebook. Both Facebook and Instagram are instituting new policies aimed at curbing the selling of regulated items – namely firearms – through their websites. The common practice of firearm sellers on the sites have been to create a page, post pictures of their wares and urge users to private message them.
Think gun shows for the 21st century. Granted, Facebook isn’t some emporium of gun runners, but Moms Demand Action and Mayors Against Illegal Guns have started to target criticism at the social network.
“Anyone who couldn’t pass a background check – for instance, a domestic abuser or a felon – can just log on to the social media gun show on Facebook or Instagram and find a private seller,” the Moms Demand Action web page on the subject alleges. “In fact, you have to provide more information to create a Facebook account than you do to complete a gun sale or trade initiated online.”
That may be true, but the flipside is they can do that through a variety of other classified ads and gun shows. Face-to-face transactions developed through online forums are another avenue. Facebook is just the bright, shiny object for the groups to attack.
The new policy Facebook is putting forward is that any page that is possibly selling firearms will be restricted to people ages 18 years and older. This prevents firearms from getting into the hands of minors. Any posts that discuss how to evade or circumvent laws will be banned. One such law is transferring a firearm across state lines without going through a licensed FFL dealer.
Advocacy groups have reacted positively to the steps Facebook and Instagram have taken. Facebook policy head, Monika Birckett said that the company would continue to work with law enforcement on any posts that were deemed a public risk.
“Facebook and Instagram will continue to remove content, and notify law enforcement where appropriate, when we are notified about things shared on our services that suggest a direct, credible risk to others’ safety.”
So, while Facebook isn’t saying you can’t necessarily sell a gun, the days of openly flaunting laws and regulations are over. Individuals will be reminded to follow all state and federal laws when their page is flagged. Wyatt Earp would be proud.