A gun control group has launched a massive campaign to curb the private sale of firearms on social networks like Facebook and Instagram, arguing that the sale of guns with no background check undermines public safety.
The group Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America believes that Facebook and Instagram are unwittingly facilitating invisible gun markets and giving individuals who wouldn’t normally pass a background check access to firearms. If a gun is purchased through a licensed dealer, the sale is prefaced by a background check that the prospective buyer has to pass to complete the sale.
If the buyer has committed a felony, is under a restraining order, or doesn’t meet a number of other legal requirements, the sale doesn’t happen.
But social media can facilitate gun sales between private individuals: No background check. There are a number of Facebook groups already where gun owners can post photos of a gun they wish to sale with a price and a phone number. Instagram hashtags like #guns and #forsale have also started showing up, suggesting a trend of firearm sales on the image-sharing app as well.
Pro-gun control groups fear that social media can give criminals easy access to firearms.
“Facebook and Instagram are effectively hosting online gun shows—allowing private sales and trades that are not subject to background checks,” Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America founder Shannon Watts said in a statement. “It requires more information to open a Facebook account than it does to purchase a gun in a private sale on their platform.”
“Private gun sales between anonymous parties are a clear threat to public safety, and must be added to the list of prohibited content,” she continued. “We are shocked and disappointed that the platforms we use to share photos of our children and stay connected to friends and family are also being used for unregulated gun sales and trades.”
The group is urging social media users to use the hashtag #EndFacebookGunShows in posts and to sign an online petition aimed at getting Facebook and Instagram to shut down gun sales on their networks.
A Facebook rep responded to the charge, telling NYDN that there’s not much they can do since they don’t actually facilitate the sales. Websites like Craigslist and eBay prevent the sale of firearms completely, though they do allow accessories to be sold.
About 40 percent of gun sales in America take place in the “private market,” but because laws governing firearm transactions owner-to-owner vary by state, it’s difficult to determine the effect of private sales on crime statistics. Still, most gun control advocates argue that stricter federal standards on private sales will reduce gun violence.
Would you ever buy a gun on Facebook?