Gun Owners Are Using Instagram To Privately Sell Firearms, Evade Background Checks

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Instagram, which does not have a specific policy that bans users from selling firearms, has become another vehicle for online gun sales according to a Daily Beast report. While 91 percent of Americans support a law requiring anyone who purchases a gun to pass a background check, weak state and federal gun policies have left online sales of firearms largely unregulated, which now extends to the increasingly popular photo-sharing application.

Daily Beast’s Brian Riess describes a typical offer on Instagram:

A typical gun-toting Instagram post goes something like this: “‘LWRC 10’ SBR FOR SALE!!! Come get it! Includes AAC suppressor tip, ergo grip, 3 magpul pmags, 2 40 round mags, bungee sling, and about 500 rounds of .556. Message me if interested.”

While Instagram has no specific policy about online sales, it recently updated its user guidelines to prevent images that encourage self-harm or abuse. Instagram, owned by Facebook, did not return a request for comment.

Other sites, like Craigslist, have taken steps against firearm sales specifically. That still leaves a vast number of options that make it easy to bypass background checks, with sites like Armslist that leave discretion entirely to the seller. A New York investigation revealed that 62 percent of online gun sellers agreed to sell to an illegal buyer, and another study found that every 30th gun sale on Armslist went to an illegal buyer, like a former felon.

Congress’ proposed gun violence reform this spring would have addressed these loopholes. Since the bill failed to earn the 60 votes needed, however, sellers can continue to decide at random whether to follow the federal recommendation that they run a background check and keep records for every sale.