Facebook Does Nothing, Gun Control Advocate Declare Victory, and a Handful of Gun Rights Advocates Lose Their Shit

Moms Demand Action (MDA) has found itself unable to buy politicians so it has switched tactics to harassing companies. One of the companies on the MDA hit list was Facebook. After being the target of minor harassment for sometime Facebook decided to revise its policies regarding the posting of ads for commonly regulated goods, including firearms:

Today, we are introducing a series of new educational and enforcement efforts for people discussing the private sale of regulated items:

  • 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. We have worked with a number of individuals and organizations on the development of these efforts, which will be implemented and enforced in the coming weeks. We are grateful in particular for the advice offered by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, Americans for Responsible Solutions, Sandy Hook Promise, Mayors Against Illegal Guns, and Moms Demand Action, which helped us develop an approach for the private sale of firearms. We also appreciate the feedback provided by the Facebook Safety Advisory Board.

As it did with Starbucks, MDA managed to convince another company to issue a statement of policy change that didn’t actually change anything. Now when an ad for a firearm sale is reported the Facebook system will send the poster and automated reminder to comply with relevant laws. Pages that primarily deal with the sale of firearms will be required to post a reminder for users to comply with relevant laws. Finally the Instagram app will remind users to comply with relevant laws when searching for firearm sales. In other words Facebook is reminding people that there are laws regarding firearm transfers.

The part that a few (by which I mean a very very minor number) gun rights activists have been bringing up as a bad change is the prohibition on ads that say no background check is necessary. Since intrastate transactions in many states don’t require a background check this blanket prohibition is not necessary in all cases. I don’t find this to be the big anti-gun ploy a few outspoken critics are trying to make it. Those of us who have researched firearm regulations in the United States know that the topic is incredibly complex. On top of the federal regulations there are also 50 individual states with their own lists of regulations. Facebook, being a social networking site, probably doesn’t have lawyers on hand who are experts in gun regulations. It is also headquartered in California. Therefore it’s likely that Facebook, not having the proper lawyers on hand, went with the safest option and decided to comply with California law in regards to background checks.

I highly doubt the prohibited language is a grand conspiracy. If Facebook wanted to implement anti-gun policies it could have. For example, it could have posted a prohibition against ads for aesthetically offensive firearms and standard capacity magazines. But it didn’t. Instead it did the corporate equivalent of telling MDA “There, we did something. Now shut up and go away.”

For you gun control advocates out there I’m sorry to report that you accomplished nothing. You are still free to declare victory but doing so will simply prove to the world that you’re delusional. For the handful of gun rights activists making this out to be proof that Facebook is anti-gun I’m sorry to report that it’s not. I know you have a deep need to be the victim but you’re not in this case. For everybody else I apologize for interrupting your day only to report nothing important happened. But I’m guessing most of you will agree with me that nothing happening is a good thing in this case.