Gun control advocates are urging social networking sites like Facebook and Instagram to make changes that would crack down on gun-related pages and posts, which anti-firearm groups say are facilitating illegal gun sales and trades.
According to reports, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Mayors Against Illegal Guns along with Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America have joined forces in urging Facebook and other social websites to place tougher restrictions on gun-related content.
“We recently began conversations with Facebook about what they can do to end the easy access to guns on its platform — because until they do, they are taking the risk that they are facilitating the illegal sale of guns on their social network,” Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, said in a statement to the Los Angeles Times. “American moms are the No. 1 demographic on Facebook — and we don’t want guns sold into dangerous hands on the same site where we post our family photos.”
And, according to the newspaper, officials at Facebook are currently looking at new ways to address gun-related content.
“We are talking with a number of organizations around our policies on guns,” a Facebook spokesman said.
The anti-gun groups’ push to increase scrutiny on pro-gun pages and posts on social networking sites comes on the heels of reports that guns purchased via connections made on the sites have been used in crimes.
An investigation conducted by the blog VentureBeat last month exclaimed, “Buying a gun on Facebook takes 15 minutes.”
From the report:
Even in their names, the Facebook fan pages make no attempt to hide what their real purposes are: Firearms Only Alamogordo, Guns for Sale, I Love Guns, and even Guns, Ammo & Blades.
The pages have hundreds of thousands of “likes” and members. While many of the sales are no doubt legitimate — federal law governing gun transactions between individuals are fairly lax — hooking up with illicit buyers and sellers via these pages is easy. For instance, you can buy automatic weapons without a permit, guns with their serial numbers filed off, and weapons that may be prohibited by your state’s laws. If you’re under 18, you can buy a handgun, which federal law prohibits.
On Tuesday, a VentureBeat reporter and his colleague spent less than 15 minutes arranging to buy a semiautomatic 7mm rifle and 90 rounds of ammunition from a guy named “Dave,” a member of Facebook “Firearms Only Alamogordo” fan page (left).
VentureBeat made contact through the fan page, and in the ensuing SMS chat, Dave expressed an eagerness to do the deal. The gun was in good condition, he explained.
When a VentureBeat reporter asked Dave if they needed to bring identification to complete the sale, his response was an immediate “no.”
Neither Facebook nor Instagram operate as online sales platforms. Furthermore, Facebook already bans ads that promote the sale and use of weapons and ammunition.
“You can’t buy things on Instagram and Facebook, nor can you promote the sale or use of weapons in advertising. We encourage people who come across any illegal activity to report it to us,” a Facebook spokesman told the Times.
It could be that the anti-gun groups’ true mission is not to ensure that the proper safeguards are in place to discourage the buying and selling of firearms between private parties networking on the sites, but to make it more difficult for Americans who are pro-2nd Amendment to find vehicles for their message.
Currently, a Facebook page called Guns Save Lives has more than 141,000 “likes,” Gun Owners of America has more than 301,000 and NRA News has upwards of 327,000 “likes.” Making it harder for social network users to “like” organizations such as these few examples of gun groups or to impede content relaying the enjoyment of shooting sports and self-defense benefits of firearm ownership would undoubtedly spell a major victory for the anti-firearm lobby.