Facebook has agreed to ban private gun sales on its platform and on Instagram, under pressure from the federal government.
Although Facebook isn’t directly involved in gun sales, it is frequently used as a platform for firearms dealers and private gun owners to advertise and arrange transactions. Licensed dealers will continue to be allowed to use Facebook to find customers.
The announcement comes after Obama’s teary-eyed speech earlier in January, in which he promised to crack down on loopholes that make it easier for someone to buy a gun without a background check.
Private gun sales are mostly unregulated — under federal law a person must only refuse to sell a gun to someone if they suspect that person might be prohibited from owning a gun.
Even that lax law is difficult to enforce. A 2011 investigation found that 62 percent of private online gun sellers were willing to continue with the deal after being explicitly told that the buyer likely wouldn’t pass a background check.
Craigslist and eBay already prohibit gun sales on their platforms.
Obama has so far not signaled a desire to put new rules on private gun sales within a given state. His speech only suggested tighter restrictions for those “in the business” of firearms sales.
This means that Craigslist-style advertising for private sales remains legal — folks will just have to leave Facebook to do it.
Fortunately for gun buyers and sellers, sites specifically designed to fill that gap already exist.
Armslist.com, the largest of these, has argued that most private gun sellers would voluntarily require background checks if it were free and easy to do so.