Posts about unlicensed gun sales will no longer be allowed on Facebook and its popular photo-sharing service Instagram, the New York Times reported on Friday. As the Times noted, guns will now join pharmaceuticals and illegal drugs as products whose private sales are banned.
While actual transactions do not take place on Facebook or Instagram, the nature of the social networks allowed users to post photos and information about the guns, as well as negotiate on their price. This effectively created an unregulated market for private gun sellers.
Everytown for Gun Safety, which had long pressed Facebook to change its policy about these sales, noted its study finding that in Nevada nearly 1 in 11 people purchasing guns online without a background check were actually prohibited from buying them at all. Their research also discovered that unlicensed sellers post over 35,000 unique gun ads each year in Nevada alone.
Facebook did not mention guns in a statement about the change. “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,” said head of product policy Monika Bickert.
The ban only applies to private sales between users. Licensed gun sellers will still be able to maintain pages and advertise products on the social network.
Still, this marks another step by the company to limit the sale of firearms on its service. As the Verge reported in 2014, Facebook previously limited posts about gun sales to people over the age of 18.
The National Rifle Association, which normally rejects gun controls measures, has yet to comment on the new policy. The group shrugged off previous attempts by Facebook to curb gun sales.
Gun control advocates, however, immediately praised the company’s announcement.
“We’re gratified that our continuous conversation with Facebook over the course of the last two years has culminated in the company prohibiting all unlicensed gun sales arranged on its platforms,” John Feinblatt, president of Everytown said in a statement. “Our undercover investigations have shown that criminals are active in the online market for guns, where unlicensed sellers can offer guns with no federal background check required.”