Facebook takes a shot at gun sellers

The world's largest social network is banning private gun sales on its site, joining a larger debate about how guns are handled in the US.

Jonathan Mossberg has responded to concerns about gun violence by making a smart gun. Facebook is weighing in on the issue by banning gun sales on its sites.

R Wettish/Jonathan Mossberg

Facebook is banning private gun sales on its main social network and Instagram too.

The Menlo Park, California-based company said Friday that it plans to stop person-to-person firearms sales on its networks. The ban, actually an update to a policy that already prohibits the sale of marijuana, pharmaceuticals, and illegal drugs, does not apply to for-sale posts by licensed gun dealers.

The move comes after President Barack Obama earlier this month announced renewed efforts to curb gun violence, including expanded background checks and research into smart guns, which use radio signals or fingerprint scanners to ensure a weapon can be fired only by its owner.

Though the president spoke passionately about the issue, the gun and technology industries have been slow to respond. Only one company was showing off new smart-gun technology during CES, the largest tech expo in the country, and none were doing so at the largest gun show. Both shows were held within days of Obama's speech.

"Over the last two years, more and more people have been using Facebook to discover products and to buy and sell things to one another," Monika Bickert, Facebook's head of product policy, said in a statement. "We are continuing to develop, test and launch new products to make this experience even better for people and are updating our regulated-goods policies to reflect this evolution."

This isn't the first time Facebook, which owns the Instagram photo-sharing social network, has pushed back against guns on its network. In 2014, the service said it would police posts designed to circumvent gun sales laws. "We will not permit people to post offers to sell regulated items that indicate a willingness to evade or help others evade the law," Bickert said in a statement at the time.

The New York Times first reported the gun sale ban.

Update, 4:30 p.m. PT: Adds confirmation and details of the news from Facebook.

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