Activists push Facebook to ban gun sales

Groups claim that the social network and its sister site Instagram facilitate questionable, and perhaps illegal, trading and selling of weapons.

By Forbes Digital Feb 24, 2014 2:36PM
Credit: © Scott Olson/Getty Images
Caption: A customer shops for a pistol at Freddie Bear Sports sporting goods store. December, 2012By Clare O'Connor, Forbes Staff

Two of the country's most influential gun control groups are in talks with Facebook's (FB) legal team in an effort to see gun sales banned on the world's largest social network and its sister site, Instagram.

Moms Demand Action For Gun Sense In America has partnered with Michael Bloomberg's Mayors Against Illegal Guns to put pressure on Facebook to prohibit the private selling or trading of guns on its platforms -- a practice that's as widespread as it is unregulated.

"Facebook and Instagram are enabling people to sell weapons, often with no questions asked and no background checks required," said Mayors Against Illegal Guns' spokesperson Erika Soto Lamb.

Lamb cited a recent sting operation in Storm Lake, Iowa, where a convicted felon tried to exchange an assault rifle for a handgun via Facebook. In this case, the gun dealer was an undercover officer, and the 21-year-old felon was arrested and jailed.

"This police department shed light on how easy it is for someone who is prohibited from owning a gun to procure one using social media," she said.

Lamb added that Facebook and Instagram would be joining fellow online platforms eBay (EBAY), Craigslist and Google's (GOOG) Google+, all of which have banned the buying, selling or trading of firearms without background checks.

Legal representatives from both gun control groups have to date held a number of conference calls with Facebook's legal team. "We're seeing how we can work together," she said. "They're listening to us."

A Facebook spokesperson confirmed these recent discussions, adding that the company's lawyers have always made a point of meeting with groups concerned about issues including hate speech and the representation of women on the site.

As these conversations continue, Moms Demand Action is circulating a petition addressed to Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg and Instagram's Kevin Systrom, with 55,000+ signatories to date urging the duo to "put an end to this completely unregulated social media gun show" on their respective sites.

Moms Demand founder Shannon Watts, who formed the group the day after the Newtown massacre, has also overseen the creation of a video aimed at showing how prolific gun sales and trades are on Facebook.

Should these activists succeed in persuading Facebook to crack down on gun sales, it'll mark Watts' second huge corporate scalp. The former communications executive and mother of five lobbied Starbucks (SBUX) last August, asking that the coffee giant ban weapons following a smattering of pro-gun rallies in and around its stores.

A month later, in September, Starbucks' billionaire CEO Howard Schultz penned a rare open letter to customers asking that they leave their guns at home.

After her Starbucks win, Watts and her team started pressuring Staples (SPLS) to enact a company-wide ban on weapons in its stores. The office supply giant has yet to acquiesce.

"We're not just taking on Congress, we're taking on corporations," said Mayors Against Illegal Guns' Lamb. "This is our next phase."

More On Forbes

Feb 24, 2014 3:30PM
Here we go again.  Get over it msn, Newtown although it involved a gun is a MENTAL healthcare issue and how poorly mentally ill are dealt with.  You could also add that if the background check policies were enforced like they are supposed to be, Newtown massacre would have never happened.  Bringing Newtown up in every gun article you produce just exposes what scum media can be.  Or I could say that you are pathetic like the president, twisting a tragedy to fit your own personal agenda when you know nothing about guns.   Also facebook is for losers, scammers, and pedophiles.
Feb 24, 2014 3:30PM
And this will stop people from buying a  At least using social media there is an electronic trail that can be followed.  The group I am a part of is mostly professionals and has a large presence of LEO, from local police, federal agencies like DEA, BP, & Customs, and large numbers of veterans and military.  The use of social media actually helps these officers keep track of prohibited possessors who are trying to buy firearms, and helps them track down firearms that have been stolen.  Criminals are not that smart and often brag about their rap sheet and other things on their pages, which are wide open and not set to private.  Law abiding firearm owners see this and pass on the info to LE.  Criminals are not that smart, but those wanting to restrict these groups are dumber.  It will simply eliminate a tool LE very often uses to apprehend criminals, and that law abiding citizens use to conduct commerce. 

Will the demand Facebook ban pedophiles from suing it to access children?  Porn stars and drug abusers are going to be banned?  Of course not,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,criminals, druggies and perverts have rights according to the left.


Gun owners, legal and abiding the law,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,not so much.

Feb 24, 2014 3:32PM
I guess anyone who wishes to connect with me will use the phone if facebook caves to these ill informed.
Feb 24, 2014 3:41PM
A convicted Felon ( why isn't he in jail ) had a weapon he should not have had is trying to swap for a handgun. My God at 21 already a Felon ( illegal to have a Firearm in the first place ) was arrested again and jailed. My God KEEP HIM IN JAIL. Throw away the key. Problem Solved. Now wasn't that simple...
Feb 24, 2014 4:31PM
I have no problem with getting "illegal" firearms off the street and keeping it illegal for felons to possess a firearm. What I am against, is the idea of trying to take away the Constitutional rights of law abiding American citizens in the name of preventing crime or "protecting" children. There will always be bad people doing bad things, punishing law abiding Americans will never change that.
Feb 24, 2014 3:42PM

These are not "unregulated".  Sales in any form have plenty of regulation.  If people are not following those laws, then its their problem and not that of the website.  If shipping a gun to another state, there has to be a federally licensed receiver on the far end and usually one on the near end.  If face to face its up to your state and local laws governing private sales.  Why not ask your govt to keep up with the laws they already have instead of making the private sector do the policing for them?


Facebook does not have to comply with gun laws, they don't deal in guns.  Its the people on facebook you need to comply with the laws, and guess what, that's already their legal responsibility!  The example of a felon getting guns is a violation of existing law by the felon as well as the seller most likely.  No loophole.


People need to read up on the laws they claim to be fighting over.  You can't piece together a valuable argument if you don't understand what you are arguing about.

Feb 24, 2014 4:05PM
I have a 550 round brick of .22 for the highest bidder.  :)
Well Facebook is owned by a filthy rights hating liberal so i'm not surprised. Meanwhile facebook lets childporn stay posted for long periods. MSN and the liberal media are never going to let up until they either make gun ownership illegal, bringing about a civil war, or this nation breaks up into liberal, moderate, and conservative sections. There's enough states wanting to leave the union for all hell to break loose.
Feb 24, 2014 4:01PM
Why don't these people do something worthwhile like helping the mentally ill or reminding parents to be more involved in there children's daily lives and teaching them what is right.  We need to help change the thought process and help get rid of the anger that people hold. It is not the gun, it is the manner it is used that is the problem.
Feb 24, 2014 5:18PM
If you want a gun to murder people, you will get one from somewhere, somehow. Stop with the communist crap MSDNC.
Feb 24, 2014 3:48PM
Feb 24, 2014 3:41PM

Really going after companies, making them ban guns in their stores. These two groups are dumb I can see keeping illegal gun sales banned from Face book but who cares if I walk around Wal-Mart with my sidearm against my hip. I'm not hurting anyone, just making a statement of don't try to mug me or anything because I'm protected.

Feb 24, 2014 5:18PM

Bloomberg and the mad mommy crowd are extortionists. They are agenda driven, leaving little room for facts in the pursuit of their goals. They use emotion over logic, and count on ignorance on the issue to gain an advantage over their opponents. Like most liberal "progressives", they see themselves as always being right on an issue, making everyone else automatically wrong. They are tenacious, and will stop at nothing to achieve their objective. They also rely on the liberal media to give them what little credibility they have, and MSNBC has shown that it will always been there to help advance their cause.

Feb 24, 2014 4:24PM
If you people are so against guns, maybe you can direct your efforts for our military to also not carry guns into battle.  Makes about as much sense as your insistence in taking them away from ordinary citizens that wish to protect themselves, instead of waiting for the authorities. 
Feb 24, 2014 4:33PM
Number of deaths for leading causes of death 2011
Heart disease: 597,689
Cancer: 574,743
Chronic lower respiratory diseases: 138,080
Stroke (cerebrovascular diseases): 129,476
Accidents (unintentional injuries): 120,859
Alzheimer's disease: 83,494
Diabetes: 69,071
Nephritis, nephrotic syndrome, and nephrosis: 50,476
Influenza and Pneumonia: 50,097
Intentional self-harm (suicide): 38,364
Feb 24, 2014 5:12PM
easy enough  just dont use facebook, i dont use that crap
Feb 24, 2014 4:01PM

The best way to reduce violent crime and the element that commits the majority of it would be to take the handcuffs off the cops and let them do the job they are charged with. Not take the best chance we have to defend ourselves or our loved ones from that element.

Feb 24, 2014 5:24PM
Look,  Obama has this under control.   His anti-gun positions have sold more ammo and guns than ever before in history.    

No worries, folks. 

How's that job search coming along?

Feb 24, 2014 8:28PM
Gun free zones equal unsafe zones for the average citizen. I am retired law enforcement and against these unsafe gun free zones.
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