News of social media platforms Facebook and Instagram change in policy to restrict potential peer-to-peer gun sales found quick reaction from those on both sides of the issue.
The ban applies to private, person-to-person sales of guns, but posts by licensed gun dealers are OK. Facebook already prohibits unauthorized dealers to purchase, sell, or trade prescription drugs, illegal drugs, or marijuana.
Enforcement will come from tips by users of suspicious activities to which the social network will remove posts they believe are in violation and potentially ban violators. In some instances where a life is endangered police would be notified, though in most states limited private gun sales between those legally able to possess one are not against the law.
“We’re gratified that our continuous conversation with Facebook over the course of the last two years has culminated in the company prohibiting all unlicensed gun sales arranged on its platforms,” Everytown President John Feinblatt, said in a statement released by the group Friday.
Partially in response to calls from organizations such as Moms Demand Action and Everytown, Facebook updated it’s policy in 2014 to limit the sale of guns. The company pushed forth efforts to block attempted sales to felons, minors or across state lines without an FFL. At the time, the National Rifle Association claimed victory as well.
Lawmakers who have stumped for tighter restrictions on private gun sales, to include universal background checks, welcomed news of the further changes last week.
“The decision to ban the private sale of guns over its social networking sites will make our communities safer by making sure that only law-abiding citizens can get their hands on a gun,” said Connecticut Democrats Sens. Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal in a joint statement.
The New York Times Editorial Board, who has weighed in for gun control increasingly in recent weeks, called the move by Facebook “sensible” in the respect that it would keep guns out of the hands of those who shouldn’t have them.
As for the numerous gun trading community groups on Facebook, to drop off the radar a number changed their names to seemingly non-gun subjects such as “Patriot Gear for Trade” and “Second Amendment Purist Bazaar” while moving from being “open” which would allow them to show up in searches, to “closed” or “secret” which would not, while trimming the number of members not well-known inside the group to purge potential tipsters.
In other words, the first rule of being in a Facebook gun group is to not talk about a Facebook gun group.
Some took a more stern approach, keeping their name and open status but towing the new standards by asking members not to post gun parts or firearms for sale for any reason.
“Any such posts will be deleted and repeat offenders will be removed from the group,” wrote one such group admin of an antique rifle community. “Sorry if, like me, you are not happy with the change, but we have a vibrant and interesting group going here and I would not want a small number of posts to jeopardize that.”
There has been a degree of early push back against the new rules, including a Change.org petition signed by over 5,000 supporters. The Florida chapter of Students for Concealed Carry has decided to stop paying for advertising through Facebook due to what they termed the outlet’s anti-gun policy.
At least one Second Amendment advocate is falling short of calling for a boycott of the platform, citing to do so would hamstring the cause of gun rights.
“Face it, without social media, much of the information gun rights advocates need to stay informed would be extremely difficult to learn about, promote and share, as the establishment press either won’t cover it or will distort what it does ‘report’ on,” wrote blogger David Codrea.