So The New York Times broke the story this way: “Breaking News: Facebook is banning gun sales on its network, which had become a way for private dealers to elude background checks.”
This choice of words is so pregnant with anti-gun political calculation that it may as well have been taken verbatim from White House talking points.
Before breaking that down, here’s the news. After a lot of lobbying from Michael Bloomberg’s anti-Second Amendment group Everytown for Gun Safety (they have been bragging about this; in fact, Shannon Watts, who merged her anti-gun group with Everytown in 2013, says she met with senior Facebook officials repeatedly over the last two years) Facebook decided to censure people who ask their “Facebook friends” if they want to buy or trade a gun. Facebook is also instituting this policy on its photo-sharing service Instagram. So what this comes down to is enforced social conformity based on the political correctness of anti-gun groups and politicians.
Licensed gun dealers (those with Federal Firearms Licenses), however, are still currently allowed to have a presence on the sites.
Now, by referring to the private citizens that Facebook says it will prevent from selling guns as “private dealers,” The New York Times is feeding into a narrative began by the Obama administration. One of President Barack Obama’s executive actions would give the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) a set of vague criteria to decide who is a gun dealer who must be licensed and regulated. This is an attempt to bypass Congress and grow the bureaucracy’s power by allowing it to threaten with felony prosecution those who sell some indeterminate number of guns during some arbitrary time period. They know the effects of this policy—if it stands—would scare some out of selling their guns, would criminalize what has always been law-abiding behavior even though it wouldn’t impede how criminals are known to obtain guns, and it would give the government a way to look into the gun safes of any who complied with such a regulatory scheme. That isn’t an attempt to catch criminals, but is a way to grow government power at the expense of individual rights.
That is, in a snapshot, the motive behind this attack on long-held Second Amendment freedoms. It’s also important to understand why Facebook decided to be complicit in this anti-gun curb on speech.
Facebook didn’t just all of a sudden decide to restrict peoples’ speech and actions. In March 2014, Facebook said in a statement it had “recently heard specific concerns from people about offers for the private sales of firearms,” but at the time Facebook said it was difficult to “balance[e] individuals’ desire to express themselves on our services, and recognizing that this speech may have consequences elsewhere.” As a result, Facebook decided that posts by citizens trying to sell a gun would prompt a message to the seller “reminding him or her to comply with relevant laws and regulations.” They also prohibited those under 18 from buying or selling a gun and prohibited anyone from including language like “no background check required.” Basically, this statement was an attempt to remind people of the law and to protect Facebook from liability.
Facebook’s new restrictions, however, treat everyday, law-abiding Americans who choose to own, buy and perhaps sell guns as if they’re akin to drug traffickers.Facebook’s new restrictions, however, treat everyday, law-abiding Americans who choose to own, buy and perhaps sell guns as if they’re akin to drug traffickers.
Facebook had already prohibited people from selling marijuana, pharmaceuticals and illegal drugs on its site; now the company has added guns to this list. (Its ban applies to private, person-to-person sales of guns. Licensed gun dealers can still maintain Facebook pages and post photos of guns on Instagram.) Of course, it should be noted that Facebook has never been directly involved in gun sales, but rather simply served as a forum for those who wish to advertise for sale their private guns.
So how are they going to accomplish this? Facebook says it will rely on its billion-plus users to report violations, would remove any post that violates its policy and might ban users who break its restrictions on speech. So what this comes down to is enforced social conformity based on the political correctness of anti-gun groups and politicians.
Facebook also hosts a lot of online groups that are centered around self-defense and the shooting sports. Members of these Facebook groups often post pictures and details about guns they shoot or own. They also ask questions about guns they are interested in buying. Many of these groups are made up of private individuals. Does this mean that Facebook will ban these groups? Or perhaps will members need to get their speech first approved by an administrator?
By censuring a freedom held since America’s founding and before, Facebook has put its heel on something as big and profound as our basic human freedoms.