Facebook Announces Ban On Private Gun Sales

Jan 30, 2016
Originally published on January 30, 2016 1:53 pm

Facebook is changing its policies to ban users from arranging the private sale of guns on both Facebook and Instagram.

The new rules, first reported Friday, are stricter than Facebook's previous stance on gun sales, which allowed users to arrange such sales under some restrictions as long as they did not use Facebook ads.

The ban on person-to-person firearm sales comes after pressure from the Obama administration, state attorneys general and gun safety advocates, NPR's Laura Sydell reported for our Newscast unit.

"Facebook has never been directly involved in gun selling, but it has been a place where buyers and sellers have negotiated sales," she explains.

The site has long banned the sale of marijuana, pharmaceuticals and illegal drugs: Now guns will be included on the list of prohibited items. Enforcement of the ban will depend on individuals flagging posts that violate the rule, after which Facebook will remove the posts, the New York Times reports.

The policy will also apply to Instagram, which Facebook owns. Licensed gun sellers will still be able to arrange gun sales on the sites.

Facebook has grappled with the use of the site to arrange unlicensed gun sales since at least 2014. In March of that year, the social media site said in a statement that it had "recently heard specific concerns from people about offers for the private sales of firearms," but noted the difficulty of "balancing individuals' desire to express themselves on our services, and recognizing that this speech may have consequences elsewhere."

Back then, the company established a multi-faceted approach toward gun sales. Posts promoting the private sale of commonly regulated items like guns would prompt a message to the seller "reminding him or her to comply with relevant laws and regulations." Such posts were also limited to users over the age of 18, and prohibited from including language like "no background check required" or any offer to cross state lines.

Since that change was enacted, gun control advocacy group Everytown for Gun Safety has continued to advocate for greater limits on arranging gun sales online, noting that they can enable gun purchases by people who would not otherwise have access to a gun.

In most states, private unlicensed gun sellers aren't required to run background checks on purchasers. Everytown has collected examples of murders carried out by people who would have failed a background check, but obtained a gun through a person-to-person sale arranged online — including two cases known to involve Facebook.

"We're thankful that Facebook has listened to our call and shut down a key avenue that criminals have used to avoid background checks and buy guns with no questions asked," Everytown said in a statement.

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