Facebook’s decision to clamp down on illegal gun sales is a small but important step in monitoring the free-for-all online gun marketplace.
According to a 2011 investigation by Mayors Against Illegal Guns, one in 30 buyers on Armslist.com, a major online sales forum, had a criminal record barring them from owning a gun.
The new Facebook and Instagram rules bar any postings where sellers appear willing to forgo a background check in the states that require checks for private sales. And it will remove posts trying to sell guns across state lines without going through a federally licensed dealer.
Facebook also is barring users younger than 18 from viewing pages where guns are marketed and will better monitor threatening posts related to firearms.
The move has been pushed for by Moms Demand Action, an advocacy group founded after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. Their advocacy grew from the failure by Congress, which so fears the National Rifle Association it won’t even address unregulated online sales.
The rules don’t go as far as other e-commerce sites, including Craigslist and eBay, which simply prohibit gun sales. The Facebook changes still leave gaping holes as only 15 states require background checks.
Still, with Facebook’s dominance in social media, the new rules are far reaching.
The changes do nothing to intrude on Second Amendment rights or on the rights of Facebook’s customers. Facebook already polices other kinds of illegal and dangerous activity on its site.
For its part, the NRA declared a sort of victory in response to Facebook’s decision.
“The NRA enjoys 150 times more support on Facebook than Michael Bloomberg’s Mayors Against Illegal Guns. That’s why Bloomberg and the gun control groups he funds tried to pressure Facebook into shutting down discussion of Second Amendment issues on its social media platforms. Bloomberg failed,” the NRA said in a statement.