DENVER — You’ve probably used Facebook to post a few photos or like someone’s status, but what about buying a gun? There are entire Facebook groups set up so that people can sell and trade firearms, often without background checks.
Now a prominent gun control advocacy group is calling on Facebook to do something about it.
Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America recently posted a video that looks and sounds similar to the 10th Anniversary Facebook videos that were popping up on countless timelines.
However, this video shows image after image of guns sales conducted on the social networking site, some boasting that background checks aren’t required.
“It was shocking to me that this was going on,” said Jennifer Hope, a spokesperson for the Colorado Chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.
Hope says her organization has sent petitions to Facebook calling on the site to ban gun sales and take down any pages that promote them.
“It’s more difficult to get a Facebook account, more information is required, than is required to sell a gun on Facebook,” Hope said.
In response to the petitions a spokesperson for Facebook pointed out that users aren’t allowed to buy anything on the site, or promote weapons in advertising. However, that hasn’t stopped entire groups from forming for exactly that purpose.
Members of the groups often avoid background checks because federal laws do not require background checks for gun sales between private citizens.
Colorado law does require background checks for any private transfer of firearms, but it’s hard to police online.
“That black market already exists,” said Edgar Antillon, a member of a Facebook group called Colorado Gun Trader.
The Colorado Gun Trader group is one of the largest firearms Facebook groups in the state. Its home page says, the “group exists for our members to legally buy, sell, trade, and auction firearms, firearms accessories, and other outdoor equipment.”
Though it’s hard to know how many local sales have included background checks, Antillon said the group is private, meaning administrators add a level of safety.
“We know law abiding citizens when we see them,” Antillon said. “Those bad apples we get to weed out and get rid of them.”
“In Colorado we don’t require a Facebook check, we require a background check,” Hope said.
Regardless, Edgar argues that action by Facebook won’t stop the activity online.
“It simply doesn’t work. Bad people get around that stuff all the time,” Antillon said.
Members of Moms Demand Action hope they can at least add another obstacle.
“When you can buy a gun online it just circumvents all of the work we’ve done here in Colorado,” Hope said.