Instagram Has Turned Into a Marketplace for Unregulated, Yet Perfectly Legal, Gun Sales
Expanded background checks on gun sales seem like an obvious move forward, especially after the horrors of Sandy Hook. In fact, 86 percent of Americans are in favor of expanded background checks on guns. However, last April, the Senate failed the people when it failed to pass a bipartisan plan to do just that by a vote of 54-46, just six short of the votes needed to clear the chamber.
Now we are learning that Instagram, the increasingly popular photography app, which Facebook purchased in April 2012 for $1 billion, is being used by a web of semi-anonymous private and professional dealers to advertise and sell firearms.
As The Daily Beast reports:
Users of Instagram, which has no explicit policy prohibiting the sale of firearms, can easily find a chrome-plated antique Colt, a custom MK12-inspired AR-15 tricked-out with “all best of the best parts possible,” and an HK416D .22LR rifle by simply combining terms like #rifle or #ar15 with #forsale.
These are handguns, shotguns, assault rifles, and everything in between being sold in an open, pseudo-anonymous online marketplace. With no federal law banning online sales and differing, loophole-ridden state laws, many gun control advocates are concerned about the public safety consequences of this unregulated market.
You can purchase music, furniture, books, electronics online, and now you can buy guns too, with the blessing of Instagram and Facebook.
On October 21, just before the start of classes at the middle school in Sparks, Nevada, a 12-year-old boy fatally shot a teacher and wounded two fellow students, also both 12, before turning the gun on himself. The teacher, identified as Michael Landsberry, died while trying to convince the armed youngster to surrender.
How did a 12-year-old get hold of this weapon? The gun belonged to a parent. Why was such a weapon not kept locked up securely in his home? Why are such weapons readily available?
It’s not illegal to sell guns online, so it’s up to the buyer and seller to follow the laws in their respective states, which vary widely. In New York, which has some of the toughest gun laws in the country, all online sales are to be handled by a licensed dealer.
But in many other states, there is virtually no regulation of in-state, private sales.
Marketplaces like Craigslist often ban the sale of guns, while dedicated gun sites like GunBroker.com require that licensed firearms dealers mediate every transaction. However, Instagram has no policy on gun sales, meaning any gun owner can post a photo of an AR-15 assault rifle and wait for the offers to roll in.
As The Daily Beast describes:
A typical gun-toting Instagram post goes something like this: “‘LWRC 10′ SBR FOR SALE!!! Come get it! Includes AAC suppressor tip, ergo grip, 3 magpul pmags, 2 40 round mags, bungee sling, and about 500 rounds of .556. Message me if interested.”
The negotiation then unfolds in the comments:
“Great setup,” a user says, indicating his or her interest. “Asking $3000 for everything,” the seller replies. “I’m really trying to get a package deal. Don’t need want to part it all out.”
How can it be legal for gun-lovers to anonymously buy weapons over the internet? Astoundingly, it’s all perfectly fine with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) because their authority doesn’t extend to the private sale of guns between private persons, which are largely permitted by law.
The ATF encourages the involved parties to finalize the sale through a licensed gun dealer who can run a background check, but whether or not this step is required depends on the state.
A spokesperson with the Department of Justice, Allison Price, said: ”There is no federal law prohibiting sales of firearms over the internet, and the ready availability of firearms through social applications presents yet another avenue for unlicensed sellers to transfer guns anonymously and without background checks.”
It is shameful that Congress failed to pass a mandatory background check requirement for the purchase of guns, so that firearms are kept out of the hands of criminals and other persons prohibited from having them.
In January, the National Rifle Association, hoping to deflect criticism as well as efforts to tighten gun control laws, promoted a “more guns” national strategy for school safety, in addition to promoting gun classes for kids as young as six. The so-called “School Shield Program” would furnish every school in America, regardless of size or grade level, with trained sharpshooters.
This is total lunacy, as is the notion of buying a weapon online.
As Nicole Hockley, the mother of a student killed in December’s shooting in Newtown said in response to last Monday’s shooting:
The unthinkable has happened yet again, this time in Sparks, Nevada. Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims, their families, and the children of Sparks Middle School, who today came face to face with violence that no child should ever experience. It’s moments like this that demand that we unite as parents to find common sense solutions that keep our children — all children — safe, and prevent these tragedies from happening again and again.
Please sign Care2′s petition urging Instagram to stop allowing unregulated gun sales so that we can prevent more tragedies like this.