People are buying and selling firearms on the social media website Instagram, an online photo- and video-sharing social networking service.
Not a big deal, right? Well, it is for some.
Gun-control advocates and federal officials argue that since intrastate firearm transactions occur via Instagram between private buyers and sellers and they’re not subject to background checks it gives felons and the mentally ill an easy way to obtain guns.
However, it’s not against federal law for one to use social media websites to sell firearms, nor is it against Facebook’s corporate policy, the company that bought Instagram for $1 billion in April 2012.
(While Facebook’s policy technically allows a person to sell firearms in site, buying sponsored ads or articles in order to sell weapons is prohibited.)
“There is no federal law prohibiting sales of firearms over the Internet and the ready availability of firearms through social applications presents yet another avenue for unlicensed sellers to transfer guns anonymously and without background checks,” Allison Price, a spokeswoman for the Justice Department told the Daily Beast.
“This loophole underscores the need for a universal background check requirement, so we can keep firearms out of the hands of criminals and other persons prohibited from having them,” she added.
John Feinblatt, the chief policy adviser for Mayors Against Illegal Guns, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s pro-gun control organization, echoed Price’s concerns.
“Whether its Armslist.com or Instagram, there are too many easy ways for criminals to buy guns online without a background check,” said Feinblatt.
While Internet sales that occur out-of-state require background checks and the assistance of a Federal Firearms Licensee or gun shop dealer, in-state sales are mostly unregulated (except in the 15 or so states that require universal background checks). A private buyer can solicit a private seller online and then the two can meet in person and exchange the cash for the gun and forgo a background check.
That said, under current federal law it is illegal for one to sell or transfer a firearm to someone he/she knows is prohibited from possessing one. Moreover, it would appear the majority of the buyers and sellers online are responsible citizens who use sound judgment before sanctioning a deal.