Facebook, Instagram Ban Private Gun Sales


Facebook and photo-sharing website Instagram are banning the private sale of firearms through their websites in what the New York Times describes as “a move meant to clamp down on unlicensed gun transactions.”


The ban does not prohibit licensed dealers from engaging in transactions.

Facebook and Instagram users will no longer be able to offer or coordinate the private sale of firearms, gun parts and ammunition, the company said. That brings firearms in line with Facebook’s ban on the private sales of marijuana, pharmaceuticals and illegal drugs.

Let me remind you that there is no federal law that prohibits the private sale of firearms, although it is illegal at the state level in certain places. It is entirely illegal to sell…illegal drugs.

Facebook has caved to the pressure of the gun control lobby.

Facebook said it would rely on its vast network of users to report any violations of the new rules, and would remove any post that violated the policy. Beyond that, the company said it could ban users or severely limit the ways they post on Facebook, depending on the type and severity of past violations. If the company believed someone’s life was in danger, Facebook would work with law enforcement on the situation.

Facebook will also rely on user reports of private gun sales that occur between members via Facebook Messenger, the company’s private messaging service. Facebook does not scan the content of those messages.


“Over the last two years, more and more people have been using Facebook to discover products and to buy and sell things to one another,” Monika Bickert, Facebook’s head of product policy, said in a statement. “We are continuing to develop, test and launch new products to make this experience even better for people and are updating our regulated goods policies to reflect this evolution.”

As long as you aren’t “discovering” a firearm you might want to legally add to your collection.

The New York Times offers the example of Scott Schmoke, who sells a “handful” of weapons every year and used Facebook to do so. “I go to a secure location, and I say, ‘Can I see your driver’s license? Do you have a concealed-weapons permit?’ ” Mr. Schmoke said. If he gets a bad feeling, he does not sell, he said.

And the Times admits, “But as an unlicensed seller, Mr. Schmoke is under no obligation to perform any kind of background check.”

The company has also been pushed by gun safety groups including Everytown for Gun Safety, an umbrella group that united the efforts of two separate organizations of mayors and mothers to promote gun safety. Shannon Watts, the founder of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, one of those two advocacy groups, said she met with senior Facebook officials repeatedly over the last two years.

Everytown for Gun Safety presented Facebook with research connecting unlicensed gun sales on the site to gun violence. For example, Ms. Watts said, in December 2014, an Ohio man, Brian Harleman, shot and wounded his ex-girlfriend and killed her 10-year-old daughter before killing himself. Although prohibited from buying firearms because of a felony conviction, he was able to buy the weapon in an unlicensed sale on Facebook.


“What they’re doing is sending such an incredibly strong, sentinel signal to the world that America is working in the right direction on guns,” said Shannon Watts, the founder of Moms Demand Action. “For them to take a stand and do the right thing gives cover to other businesses to do the right thing.”


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