Facebook has announced that it and its photo-sharing site Instagram will no longer allow private online gun sales. Gun control group Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America had begun two years ago to get the social media site to crack down on online gun sales.
In 2014, Facebook did take steps to make sure that minors couldn’t see posts advertising for guns. But Friday, they took it a step further and announced that no private seller could advertise or sell guns on their websites. Federal Firearms Licensees (FFL) will still be permitted to promote their firearm business, but financial transactions will have to be made elsewhere, either in person, or on another website.
It wasn’t until last summer that Facebook was even capable of processing payments on their site. That meant that if you wanted to sell something using Facebook, all you could do was advertise your product or service. When it came to accepting payment, Facebook wasn’t set up to accept payment.
Now that they are set up to process payments, they want to make it clear that if you’re a private gun seller (without a Federal Firearms License), you won’t be able to advertise or sell your guns online using a Facebook account. The Associated Press reported:
Facebook says it’s cracking down on online gun sales, announcing Friday a new policy barring private individuals from advertising or selling firearms on the world’s largest social network.
The new policy applies also to Facebook’s photo-sharing service Instagram. It comes after gun control groups have long complained that Facebook and other online sites are frequently used by unlicensed sellers and buyers not legally eligible to buy firearms.
Facebook “was unfortunately and unwittingly serving as an online platform for dangerous people to get guns,” said Shannon Watts of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, a group that launched a public campaign to convince the social network to change its policies two years ago.
Watts said her group has found numerous cases of felons and minors who were able to buy guns on the site, including two cases in which the buyers used the guns to slay others. Representatives of two gun-owner rights groups, including the National Rifle Association, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Facebook had announced some restrictions on gun sales and advertising in 2014, saying it would block minors from seeing posts that advertised guns. But the social network did not ban private sales at that time.
Licensed firearms retailers can still promote their businesses on Facebook, but they aren’t allowed to accept orders or make sales on the site.
Bob Owens with Bearing Arms points out that this new rule change is really nothing more than show:
The simple fact of the matter is that this is nothing more or less than gun control theater, full of sound and fury, signifying very little, and may actually work in favor of gun rights. “Online gun sales” were always a red herring. They simply do not exist, and never have.
In other words, if you want to purchase a firearm online from an FFL, you can’t just PayPal the money to the seller, and have the seller ship you your brand new AR-15 in the mail. It’s not quite that simple. You still have to go through the background check system in person with a Federal Firearms Licensee. Even in cases of private gun dealers who have no FFL, there are still restrictions.
So, what does this new Facebook rule actually do? Not much. Like Owens said, it’s mostly for show. The vast majority of online gun sellers are FFLs. If they have a Facebook account, they can still advertise their business. But because of the new rule, they can’t accept payment for their guns on Facebook (or Instagram). But they haven’t really been able to do that anyway, since payment processing on the social media network is a fairly new feature. All they’d have to do now is refer customers to another website where they can accept payment.
A recent Quinnipiac poll found that just 3% of gun owners obtained their guns through an online source.