I didn’t know that Facebook and Instagram were popular mediums for person-to-person gun sales until just recently, and the only reason I even found out in the first place is because Facebook announced on Friday that both of the services have started cracking down on such sales. That isn’t to say that Facebook is making an anti-gun statement and banning all gun sales, however, because licensed gun dealers are still allowed to conduct their business, it’s simply banning those person-to-person sales that make it easier for people to avoid background checks.
Facebook is banning private sales of guns on its flagship social network and its Instagram photo-sharing service, a move meant to clamp down on unlicensed gun transactions. Facebook already prohibits people from offering marijuana, pharmaceuticals and illegal drugs for sale, and the company said on Friday that it was updating its policy to include guns. The ban applies to private, person-to-person sales of guns. Licensed gun dealers and gun clubs can still maintain Facebook pages and post on Instagram. Although Facebook was not directly involved in gun sales, it has served as a forum for gun sales to be negotiated, without people having to undergo background checks. The social network, with 1.6 billion monthly visitors, had become one of the world’s largest marketplaces for guns and was increasingly evolving into an e-commerce site where it could facilitate transactions of goods. The ban thrusts Facebook into the center of another major societal debate. Discussions over gun control have flared anew after the mass shootings last year in San Bernardino, Calif., and a community college in Oregon, among others. In January, President Obama gave a speech promising to tighten enforcement of laws governing unlicensed gun sales. In response, some individual sellers said they would turn to sites like Facebook, which allowed them to freely advertise guns for sale.
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