How social media users get around Facebook's ban on gun sales

ByDiane Wilson and Ashley Hicks via WTVD logo
Tuesday, November 19, 2019
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Despite policy, guns are offered and sold on Facebook

Gun sellers are outsmarting Facebook and getting around the social media giant's ban on the sale of weapons.

It's against Facebook's policy to post weapons, ammunition, or explosives for sale, but that's not stopping these prohibited items from being sold online on social media forums. An viewer brought this to our attention after they said they would report each ad they found of a weapon for sale, but they claim the post remained for days or new ones would pop up.

This viewer shared with us dozens of weapons listed for sale on Facebook. In the posts, the sellers don't actually show a weapon for sale or state that they have a gun for sale, instead, they list it as just a soft case, hard case or storage container for sale. We didn't find out what they were selling until we messaged the seller and they shared pictures of guns and crossbows for sale.

Here is one example: The post is for an upgraded box for $1,000. The picture shows a box with toy cars on the box and around it, and the items sit on top of a play mat. Once we messaged the seller, he showed us what's really inside the box. It was this Glock.

Another example is this Facebook ad for a soft case, which was listed for just $1. When we messaged the Facebook seller, he showed us pictures of this rifle for sale.

Kaaren Haldeman with Moms Demand Action said that though Facebook did crack down on the sale of weapons at one time, it's clear that users have found a way around the rules.

"The problem is that you are giving license to anyone, from any background, with no background check to buy a weapon of mass destruction in this country," she said.

In North Carolina, to buy a handgun, it is required by law to get a pistol purchase permit, but when buying and selling on Facebook, Haldeman said there are no checks in place to make sure laws are followed.

"You have no guarantee of a background check. You have no sense whether this person is being a responsible owner," Haldeman said. "Besides the possibility of buyers and sellers not following state law, there are also many unknowns about the weapon for sale. I don't know where the guns are from; I have no idea if the image they are presenting is what I'll be getting."

Our sister-station in North Carolina, WTVD, reached out to Facebook, and a company spokesperson said they've investigated and removed the content that violates their commerce policies.

The spokesperson added, "Selling guns on Facebook is a clear violation of our policies. If we catch someone selling guns, we take immediate action. We also encourage our community to report buyers or sellers who aren't acting in good faith; there's a "Report Item" option on every product profile."

As for Haldeman, she says it comes down to responsible gun ownership.

"When you do talk to responsible gun owners, they will tell you, they have no problem with a background check, they have no problem with an extended background check; they have no problem with the waiting period," she said.