Illegal Guns on Facebook and Instagram

The black market for illegal guns has made its way to social media platforms Facebook and Instagram, with activists putting pressure on officials to do something about the growing illegal market. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, along with gun control groups, have lobbied for Facebook and Instagram to restrict these posts and pages, particularly from minors. The social media giants have complied, saying that they will do everything in their power to clamp down on the advertisements which promote the sale of weapons with “absolutely no background checks.”

According to reports, the blatant guerilla marketing campaigns from illegal gun sellers have found a home on Facebook and Instagram to push their product, luring would-be buyers with promises of no background checks and no regulations. Facebook claims that up until now, when viewers click on such an ad that violates laws and regulations, a disclaimer pops up which urges the user to adhere to federal law. Nonetheless, observers say many illegal weapons have found their way through Facebook and Instagram into the hands of unregistered gun owners and minors.

Facebook says that when it is notified of illegal ads promoting such products they immediately take them down, not allowing users to promote illegal content. Facebook added that users cannot buy guns through Facebook since there is no financial transaction capability. Still, observers say Facebook is where gun buyers and sellers can connect for the initial deal and then move on to a thir- party site to close the purchase.

Technology blog VentureBeat did an investigation of their own, finding that a number of people have connected through gun enthusiast pages on Facebook to purchase and sell illegal firearms to one another.

Gun control groups Mayors Against Illegal Guns and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, say they are outraged at the illegal market, and demand Facebook and Instagram change their policies to be more strict against users who partake in the illegal market.

New York has one of the most strict gun control laws in the country, and officials there say they will do everything in their power to work with the social media platforms to ban the sale of guns through their services.

An online petition has garnished over 225,000 signatures asking Facebook and Instagram to overhaul their policy and put a stop to the illegal gun transactions.

The online campaign urging Facebook and Instagram to crack down on the illegal market was accompanied by the story of an Ohio man who illegally sold his 9-millimeter handgun to a 15-year old from Kentucky, connecting through Facebook to make the deal happen. Another story involved a convicted felon from Iowa who purchased a number of guns illegally from an undercover cop posing as a seller on Facebook.

Observers say the unregulated market means that guns more often than not end up in the hands of violent criminals and those who are not trained in the use of a firearm, leading to catastrophic and deadly consequences. The story of the minor from Kentucky and the felon from Iowa was more than enough for gun activists to get on the case of lawmakers in New York and elsewhere.

The social media giants say they will do what they can to crack down on the illegal guns sold on Facebook and Instagram.

By John Amaruso

LA Times
USA Today

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