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Facebook Does About Face On Private Gun Sale Policy

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(credit: KTVT/KTXA) Mireya Villarreal
A native Texan, Mireya was born and raised in the Rio Grande Valley....
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NORTH TEXAS (CBS 11 NEWS) – A gun deal going down in minutes, the CBS 11 I-Team showed you how easy it is to buy and sell guns on social media sites like Facebook, with very little oversight.

Private gun sales are not illegal and neither is using social media to do it.  But gun safety groups felt like Facebook and Instagram weren’t doing enough to keep guns away from people who shouldn’t have them — like criminals or the mentally ill.

Now, Facebook, which also owns Instagram, says they’re making some big changes to keep those guns from getting into the wrong hands.

Allen Manning, a CBS employee, joined a Facebook group called DFW Gun Trader to sell one of his rifles.  Within minutes of posting pictures he had a buyer.

“I don’t have a love affair with weapons. But I do love the idea of owning them,” Manning told us.

Manning paid $50 to run a background check on his buyer, even though he wasn’t required by law to do that.

But we found plenty of examples where Facebook users were actually promising potential buyers they wouldn’t run a background check if their price was met.  It’s this type of exchange that motivated groups like Moms Demand Action to start a petition asking Facebook and Instagram to change their policies.

“If you’re not going to go through the proper channels to own a gun then I don’t see how responsible you really are,” Mindy Carter, a local DFW member of Moms Demand Action, said.  “And I don’t know if Facebook is the place to be buying that gun.”

After working closely with groups like Moms Demand Action, Facebook announced they’d be implementing some new policies.

Starting March 5 they’ll delete posts that promise not to run background checks.  They’ll also start an educational campaign, reminding private sellers they need to follow gun laws.  And they’ll keep minors away from firearm posts and gun groups.

“I think it’s a good thing,” Steve Ormand noted.  “I don’t think any of these gun groups are the right place for a 15 or 16-year-old kid.”

Steve Ormand started DFW Gun Trader, the Facebook group that Manning used to sell his rifle.  It now has more than 5,600 members that buy, sell, trade or just talk about guns and ammunition on a daily basis.

While Ormand agrees with the new policies, he warns Facebook they could see some backlash if they go too far.

“A lot of those guys that are on there, that’s the only reason they’re on there. So, they’ll start losing people,” he said.  “And when they lose people, they’ll lose that advertising power that made them all the money.”

The National Rifle Association (NRA) also weighed in on Facebook and Instagram’s new policies saying this was an attempt by politicians to stop second amendment discussions on social media, but it failed.  They add that their members will continue to exercise their freedom of speech online to talk about their right to bear arms.

(©2014 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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