Private sales of guns will no longer be allowed on Facebook or Instagram, the social giant has declared via a new policy change. The New York Times reports that the ban is intended to prevent unlicensed gun transactions in which the sites’ users conduct private person-to-person sales. Licensed gun sellers, who are required to conduct background checks on gun buyers, will still be able to advertise their wares on the two social networks. Facebook has made previous attempts to limit firearm sales via the site, banning users from advertising that a gun sale didn’t require a background check, and attempting to block minors from viewing posts or pages related to firearm sales, but the new private-sales ban comes as the company is increasingly looking to get into e-commerce, for instance making it possible for Facebook users to make payments to one another for goods sold via the site. The social network has 219 million users in the U.S. alone, and though its not clear exactly how many private gun sales were happening on the site, the Times calls it one of the world’s largest marketplaces for private gun sales, and, from a cursory search, the site has many large groups devoted to firearm sales that act like online classified pages.
In a statement obtained by the Times, Facebook head of product policy Monika Bickert said, “Over the last two years, more and more people have been using Facebook to discover products and to buy and sell things to one another. We are continuing to develop, test and launch new products to make this experience even better for people and are updating our regulated goods policies to reflect this evolution.”
The company has also been pressured to make the change by gun-control groups and advocates like New York attorney general Eric Schneiderman. Like with their previous bans on posts related to the sale of marijuana and illegal drugs, Facebook will rely on users reporting any violations of the new policy, and offending posts will be removed after being reported and reviewed. The company will also ban or restrict repeat violators, if necessary. It appears the policy will apply mostly to public posts, since the network won’t be scanning people’s private messages for discussions related to firearm sales. Looking at possible pushback from the guns rights community, the Verge has previously noted that the NRA believes that policies restricting firearms discussions on Facebook should be considered an unconstitutional limit on the rights of gun owners. Craigslist and eBay already have similar bans.