Facebook is banning private sales of guns on its flagship social network and its Instagram photo-sharing service, a move meant to clamp down on unlicensed gun transactions, the New York Times reports. Facebook already prohibits people from offering marijuana, pharmaceuticals and illegal drugs for sale, and the company is updating its policy to include guns. The ban applies to private, person-to-person sales of guns. Licensed gun dealers and gun clubs can still maintain Facebook pages and post on Instagram. Although Facebook was not directly involved in gun sales, it has served as a forum for gun sales to be negotiated, without people having to undergo background checks. The social network, with 1.6 billion monthly visitors, had become one of the world's largest marketplaces for guns.
The ban thrusts Facebook into the center of another major debate. Discussions over gun control have flared anew after mass shootings last year in San Bernardino, Ca., and a community college in Oregon, among others. In January, President Obama promised to tighten enforcement of laws on unlicensed gun sales. In response, some individual sellers said they would turn to sites like Facebook, which allowed them to freely advertise guns for sale. Facebook said it would rely on its vast network of users to report violations of the new rules, and would remove any post that violated the policy. Beyond that, the company said it could ban users or severely limit the ways they post on Facebook, depending on the type and severity of past violations. If the company believed someone's life was in danger, Facebook would work with law enforcement.