Gun violence is reaching epidemic levels in the United States. More than a million people have died due to gun violence in the past 35 years, last year we had more mass shootings than days in the year, and more than 100 people were shot and killed in Chicago in the first 10 days of 2016 alone. Earlier this year President Obama introduced an executive order to expand background checks for those wishing to purchase guns, and although Congress is still in gridlock when it comes to the issue, it looks like Facebook at least is following the president's lead. The company announced Friday that it will ban the purchase and sale of guns on its site, as well as on Instagram, which it owns.
"Over the last two years, more and more people have been using Facebook to discover products and to buy and sell things to one another," Monika Bickert, Facebook’s head of product policy, told the New York Times in a statement. In particular, people have been using Facebook forums to purchase guns without a background check. The ban only applies to private, person-to-person sales; licensed gun stores and salespeople will still be able to peddle their wares on the site.
Following the president's crackdown on unlicensed gun sales, many said they would turn to sites like Facebook to continue to buy guns illegally. But the social media giant is having none of it—the site will rely on users to report unlawful activity and, if necessary, will restrict users' posting abilities and even collaborate with law enforcement.
New York attorney general Eric T. Schneiderman called the move "another positive step toward our shared goal of stopping illegal online gun sales once and for all." It should certainly weed out private gun salesmen such as Scott Schmoke of Florida, who told the Times he insists on meeting people before he sells them a gun; if he "gets a bad feeling" about someone, he won't go through with the sale. Thanks to Facebook's new regulations, we no longer have to rely on the gut feelings of random Florida men.