On Wednesday, March 5, Facebook announced a “series of new educational and enforcement efforts for people discussing the private sale of regulated items.” Offers posted on Facebook that indicate a “willingness to evade or help others evade the law, including private sellers of firearms in the US specifying ‘no background check required’” will be prohibited.
“People sometimes use our free tools to discuss products that are regulated or controversial. In some cases they promote these products for sale or use, even though it’s not possible to complete a sale on Facebook or Instagram. While we’ve recently heard specific concerns from people about offers for the private sales of firearms, this is one of many areas where we face a difficult challenge balancing individuals’ desires to express themselves on our services, and recognizing that this speech may have consequences elsewhere.
“Any time we receive a report on Facebook about a post promoting the private sale of a commonly regulated item, we will send a message to that person reminding him or her to comply with relevant laws and regulations. We will also limit access to that post to people over the age of 18.
“We will require Pages that are primarily used by people to promote the private sale of commonly regulated goods or services to include language that clearly reminds people of the importance of understanding and complying with relevant laws and regulations, and limit access to people over the age of 18 or older if required by applicable law.
“We will provide special in-app education on Instagram for those who search for sales or promotions of firearms.
“We will not permit people to post offers to sell regulated items that indicate a willingness to evade or help others evade the law. For example, private sellers of firearms in the US will not be permitted to specify ‘no background check required,’ nor can they offer to transact across state lines without a licensed firearms dealer. We have worked with a number of individuals and organizations on the development of these efforts, which will be implemented and enforced in the coming weeks. We are grateful in particular for the advice offered by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, Americans for Responsible Solutions, Sandy Hook Promise, Mayors Against Illegal Guns, and Moms Demand Action, which helped us develop an approach for the private sale of firearms. We also appreciate the feedback provided by the Facebook Safety Advisory Board.
“As always, we encourage people who see anything that violates our policies to report it to us using the tools found throughout our services. Facebook and Instagram will continue to remove content, and notify law enforcement where appropriate, when we are notified about things shared on our services that suggest a direct, credible risk to others’ safety. We will also continue to strictly enforce our advertising policies.”
That announcement was met with approval by Americans for Responsible Solutions and Sandy Hook Promise, who issued the following joint statement:
“Facebook has taken a significant step for gun safety. We were pleased to work with Facebook on a new set of policies that protect the safety of users, particularly children, educate its users about lawful and responsible firearms transactions, and help prevent illegal activity from occurring. Specifically, the new initiative will block children from viewing firearms sales ads, inform users of the law and responsible approaches to gun transactions, and help enforce the law by deleting posts that encourage no-background check or illegal sales. While Facebook is making a serious effort to ensure safe and responsible compliance with our nation’s gun laws, we know that our laws must be strengthened. Providing background checks for Internet sales is commonsense policy that allows law abiding Americans to safely exchange guns.”
In response to the announcement, Moms Demand Action founder Shannon Watts and Mayors Against Illegal Guns chairman John Feinblatt also issued statements.
“American moms are gratified that Facebook and Instagram have agreed to take meaningful steps to prevent illegal gun sales to children and dangerous people on its platforms… Our campaign showed how easy it is for minors, felons and other dangerous people to get guns online — that’s why moms and more than 230,000 Americans signed our petition, tweeted, and used social media to ask Facebook and Instagram to do something about gun sales facilitated on their networks,” said Ms Watts. She went on to say, “Moms have momentum and we’re moving the country toward a culture of gun safety one company, one legislator, one law at a time. We’re going to keep applying pressure to corporations and political leaders until they do more to reduce the gun violence that plagues our country. We’re not going away, and we will not stop until we’ve done everything we can to keep our children and communities safe.”
Mr Feinblatt said, “Our campaign exposed how simple it is for dangerous people to get their hands on guns, no questions asked — not only on Facebook and Instagram — but across the Internet. Unfortunately, the ‘private sale loophole’ allows anonymous parties to sell guns without background checks, and there are simply too many ways for criminals, minors and other prohibited gun purchasers to get them easily — with just the click of a mouse. We are grateful that Facebook and Instagram are making major moves to prevent these sales from happening via their platforms.”
In response to the Facebook announcement, the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), located in Newtown, posted a statement at nssfblog.com. “Facebook today acted to provide clarification to its policies on postings concerning firearms and agreed to provide educational messaging on its platform. We are in agreement that all applicable laws should be observed in the private transfer of firearms. We would have welcomed the opportunity to provide our industry’s perspective, however, and regret that we were not consulted. Facebook’s clarification will not affect the lawful commerce in firearm and ammunition products for NSSF members and their customers.”
Americans for Responsible Solutions is working across the country to build an organization with millions of people committed to finding sensible ways to reduce gun violence and encouraging elected officials to enact responsible firearms policies that protect the Second Amendment.
The mission of Sandy Hook Promise is to prevent the causes of gun violence by educating and empowering parents to make changes in their community and to help our community through this tragedy by providing immediate and long-term financial, in-kind and other aid. The organization encourages and supports sensible solutions that prevent gun violence that respect the rights that the Second Amendment bestows on individuals.
Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America was created to build support for common-sense gun reforms. The nonpartisan grassroots movement of American mothers is demanding new and stronger solutions to lax gun laws and loopholes that jeopardize the safety of our children and families.
NSSF is the trade association for America’s firearms industry.