Our favorite anti-gun groups, Mayors Against Illegal Guns and Moms Demand Action, are both crowing about the new policies in place on Facebook regarding the potential sales or offers for sale of firearms on the social media site. Facebook is giving both groups, among others, credit in shaping a new policy on the sale on guns on their site.
But is it really a victory? Read the official new policy for yourself, but here are the salient points:
– Any time we receive a report on Facebook about a post promoting the private sale of a commonly regulated item, we will send a message to that person reminding him or her to comply with relevant laws and regulations. We will also limit access to that post to people over the age of 18.
– We will require Pages that are primarily used by people to promote the private sale of commonly regulated goods or services to include language that clearly reminds people of the importance of understanding and complying with relevant laws and regulations, and limit access to people over the age of 18 or older if required by applicable law.
– We will provide special in-app education on Instagram for those who search for sales or promotions of firearms.
– We will not permit people to post offers to sell regulated items that indicate a willingness to evade or help others evade the law. For example, private sellers of firearms in the U.S. will not be permitted to specify “no background check required,” nor can they offer to transact across state lines without a licensed firearms dealer.
I’m looking at this list, and then I’m wondering what Mayors Against Illegal Guns and Moms Demand Action’s definition of “victory” is. Because what I’m reading here is much less than even Starbucks eventually decided to do with their gun policy. All Facebook is asking people to do is “comply with the relevant laws.” Don’t sell to minors. Don’t offer to help people break the law. Don’t sell across state lines without a licensed dealer. You can’t specifically say that you won’t run a background check on a private sale, even though they aren’t legally required to run one anyway.
Follow the law. Follow the law. Follow the law.
Am I missing something?
“We’re not thinking of this as a victory,” said Will Villota, communications director for the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. “The bar has been set by other social platforms like Google+, Craigslist and eBay — they do not allow, will not allow, unlicensed sellers to post guns for sale on their communities. We think Facebook fell short of that bar.”
What the Brady Campaign wanted was an outright ban on gun selling groups on Facebook. Facebook was not willing to go that far, as you can read in their statement:
People sometimes use our free tools to discuss products that are regulated or controversial. In some cases they promote these products for sale or use, even though it’s not possible to complete a sale on Facebook or Instagram. While we’ve recently heard specific concerns from people about offers for the private sales of firearms, this is one of many areas where we face a difficult challenge balancing individuals’ desire to express themselves on our services, and recognizing that this speech may have consequences elsewhere.
And yet, most of the anti-gun crowd wants to spin this as a “victory” over Facebook.
As Facebook rightly points out, no transaction can be completed over its platform, because you can’t exchange money over Facebook. All you can do is negotiate the terms of a sale. So long as a private seller follows all the laws applicable to their sale, it sounds like Facebook is going to stay out of it – unless those posts are reported. And even then, Facebook is only going to issue a warning to the person posting. This sounds more like a CYA move to me than anything else.
Like Starbucks before them, Facebook is trying to please the politically correct anti-gun crowd while not driving away the thousands of people who have used their social media platform to gather, discuss, and potentially sell firearms. Only time will tell if they will be successful. And in the meantime, if all the anti-gun groups need to declare a “victory” is for people to be told to observe and obey the applicable laws, then we can probably expect to see a lot of victory dances in the future as stories and headlines are spun to push the idea that the anti-gun movement is winning. Always remember to read beyond the headlines and the predetermined narrative.
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