Facebook, Instagram Ban Gun Sales Posts

Wednesday, 05 Mar 2014 03:00 PM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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Facebook users can share many things, but not postings about gun sales that don't require background checks or ads that cross state lines, according to a new rule imposed by the popular social media site that is angering gun traders and firearms enthusiasts.

Before the rules changed, Facebook only prohibited paid ads and sponsored stories about weapons, but images were allowed as long as the weapon wasn't pointed directly at viewers, reports USA Today.

But Facebook and its photo-sharing side site, Instagram, said Wednesday that it plans to delete any posts that offer to buy or sell guns without requiring a background check, reports Reuters. The sites will also bar users who are younger than 18 from viewing gun offers that are posted.

"We will not permit people to post offers to sell regulated items that indicate a willingness to evade or help others evade the law," Facebook said in its announcements.

The move is fueling the gun control debate, and gun traders and enthusiasts said Facebook's new ban is not fair.

"It's not ok to target only firearm enthusiasts for excessively restrictive rules" said one Facebook petition that has gathered more than 8,900 signatures. On another Facebook page, "Guns For Sale," members are circulating petitions, and thousands of buyers and sellers are complaining.

"Facebook: stay fair — don't cave in to the anti-gun demands!" said Facebook user Stanton McCandlish, 45, of Oakland, Calif.

"There is no smoking gun here of big groups of Facebook users doing something wrong that requires some regulation," said McCandlish. "But Facebook is a private company, I guess if they want to have restrictive policies that alienate users, they can do that."

Facebook's new policy is being seen as a victory for anti-gun groups like Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America and Mayors Against Illegal Guns, which have been lobbying for more restrictive gun policies at businesses like Starbucks, Staples and now Facebook.

"On the same site that people are sharing birthday parties and family reunions, there are photos of AK-47s," said John Feinblatt, chairman of Mayors Against Illegal Guns. "This is not in the bowels of Facebook. This is upfront, center and easy to access."

The groups posted petitions, "Prohibit gun sales on Facebook & Instagram immediately"  and "Don't allow gun sales without background checks on your sites" on Change.org to demand the change, saying that pages used to sell weapons without background checks are "a social media gun show that we can't allow to go on any longer."

By Wednesday morning, the first petition was stamped "Victory" and had nearly 96,000 signatures.

"It's not just giving criminals access to guns, it's giving our children access to guns," says Shannon Watts, Founder of Moms Demand Action.

Meanwhile, pictures with children actually holding guns are not prohibited. A Connecticut father and a local gun store are standing behind a decision to post a Facebook photo of the man's 6-month-old daughter with a bolt-action rifle resting across her lap.

The picture of the baby has been removed from Facebook after it stirred controversy last week, reports WTNH-TV in New Haven, Conn., which reported the story after a viewer forwarded the photo to its newsroom.

The child's father, Christopher Duffy, snapped the photo at the Woodbridge Firearms Trading Post while he was shopping for the weapon, and posted it to his Facebook page. The store then shared the photo on its page. Both parties say the picture is just a picture, and there was nothing wrong with it.

"If someone wants to share something with the rest of the community, I have no problem posting it on the page," said the gun shop's co-owner, Mike Majewski.

However, Duffy and the gun store have both taken the photo off their Facebook page following news reports and public outcry.

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