Facebook and Instagram: No More Private Gun Sales On Sites

Gun rights have been all over the news lately, from the armed Oregon standoff to President Obama’s recent executive action; now Facebook and Instagram are stepping into the fray. The New York Times reports that Facebook and Instagram (a subsidiary of Facebook) announced January 29 that they will be banning the private sale of guns on both sites. Facebook plans to update its terms of use, which already prohibits the sale of illegal drugs (including marijuana) and pharmaceuticals to include a ban on the private sale of firearms.

Licensed gun dealers and gun clubs will be able to maintain their pages and e-commerce on both Facebook and Instagram, according to reports.

The move comes in the wake of President Barack Obama’s recent promise to use his executive power to curb unlicensed gun sales in the United States. Following the president’s speech, some private sellers swore they would simply turn to Facebook, Instagram, and similar sites to continue advertising their guns for sale in such a way that would allow them to circumvent the background check process and other restrictions that licensed gun dealers must utilize to sell firearms.

Facebook bans private gun sales
[Photo by @SGTreport/Twitter]

This threat by private gun sellers put Facebook in a quandary. While the social media behemoth technically has no direct involvement in the sale of firearms, it has become an integral hub from which the private sale of guns is facilitated. Facebook boats 1.6 billion users worldwide, and as such had also become one of the world’s largest and most frequented firearms marketplaces. In addition, Facebook has been evolving into an e-commerce site in its own right, with the company even recently adding the ability to directly transfer funds person to person into its Messenger app.

Ultimately, Facebook had become a social media site where private gun sales could be advertised, negotiated, and even paid for.

“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. 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.”

Facebook plans to implement its new policy banning the private sale of guns with the help of its extensive network of dedicated users. Facebook members and/or members of Instagram, will be able to report violations of the new gun policy, and are encourage to do so. Upon receiving reports of prohibited posts, Facebook will remove any page that violates the new policy. Repeated or egregious violations could result in Facebook and/or Instagram users being banned or their site access being limited.

Beyond that, Facebook has said it would would with law enforcement officials if the company believed a post or posts indicate that someone’s life may be in jeopardy.

Private Gun Sale Facebook Page
[Photo by @SocialMoveTech/Twitter]

When it comes to violations of the new policy that happen on Messenger, Facebook will be totally reliant on user reports to handle rule-breakers. This is because Facebook does not monitor or scan private messages sent through the service.

Not surprisingly, the response from pro gun-control groups to the recent Facebook decision has been overwhelmingly positive. Shannon Watts, the founder of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, said she first spoke with Facebook senior officials two years ago and has met with them repeatedly since. Upon hearing of the decision to ban the private sale of guns on Facebook and Instagram, she released a thrilled statement.

“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. For them to take a stand and do the right thing gives cover to other businesses to do the right thing.”

One of the single biggest opponents to restrictions on gun sales in the United States, the National Rifle Association, has yet to comment on the decision to ban private gun sales on Facebook and Instagram.

Social media users have also weighed in on the decision of Facebook execs to ban private gun sales on both Facebook and Instagram.

Only time will tell if the new policy will truly be enforceable or how it might impact the social media giant. What do you think? Is the new policy to ban private gun sales on Facebook and Instagram reasonable or a waste of time?

[Image Courtesy Of Justin Sullivan/Getty Images]