Washington—Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and Representative Mary Gay Scanlon (D-Pa.) today introduced the Stopping the Fraudulent Sales of Firearms Act, a bill to prevent gun sellers from circumventing technology companies’ terms of service by making it illegal to fraudulently sell firearms and ammunition online.
“Despite bans by the major technology companies on using their platforms to sell firearms, many sites are struggling to stop dishonest individuals from selling guns online,” said Senator Feinstein. “Our bill would make it clear that it’s a crime to circumvent a website’s terms of service to sell a firearm. This is a commonsense approach to prevent prospective gun buyers from evading background checks by secretly buying weapons online.”
“Despite some initial steps that big tech companies have taken over the last couple of years to crack down on illegal online firearm sales, determined gun sellers and buyers continue to find new ways to circumvent these companies’ efforts,” said Senator Menendez. “Our common-sense bill makes it clear that gun sellers who illegally move their weapons online and jeopardize public safety will pay the price for their actions.”
“Background checks work, and every single person who tries to buy a gun should have to pass a background check,” said Representative Scanlon. “Right now, gun buyers can too easily evade a background check by buying a firearm online. We need to crack down on deceptive practices that allow bad actors to circumvent rules designed to prevent the sale of guns and ammunition on tech platforms. With the Stopping the Fraudulent Sales of Firearms Act, these deceptive practices would be more than a simple violation of a platform’s terms of service -- they would be a federal crime. This is a common sense solution that can save lives.”
Some technology companies have banned the sale of firearms and ammunition on their platforms. However, sellers often will misrepresent guns as other items to circumvent such restrictions.
For instance, sellers on platforms like Facebook Marketplace will claim to be selling “stickers” alongside images of gun maker logos. Sellers will ask interested parties to send a private message where buyers learn the posting is actually for a gun sale and receive details and pricing.
Facebook reported in 2020 that it had removed 1.3 million posts related to firearms between April and June from its platforms.
In the Senate, the bill is cosponsored by Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.). In the House, the bill is cosponsored by Representatives Henry C. “Hank” Johnson, Jr. (D-Ga.), Madeleine Dean (D-Penn.) and Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.).
“Right now, internet marketplaces are where people with dangerous histories go to buy guns from unscrupulous private sellers,” said John Feinblatt, president of Everytown for Gun Safety. “Stopping illegal gun sales will save lives and we applaud Senators Feinstein, Menendez, Booker, Blumenthal and Congresswoman Scanlon for reintroducing legislation to do exactly that.”
“Far too often, tech companies are left playing whack-a-mole to stop illegal gun sales online and it needs to stop once and for all,” said Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action. “We appreciate Senators Feinstein, Menendez, Booker, and Blumenthal and Congresswoman Scanlon for their work to stop the illegal sales of firearms and fight for gun safety.”
“The overwhelming majority of Americans believe that individuals who should not possess firearms are not able to purchase them, yet loopholes in our laws and growing online sales undermine this core principle of our gun safety laws,” said Kris Brown, president of Brady. “This bill is a common-sense fix to this growing problem that recognizes the realities of the 21st Century by addressing the dangerous practice of falsely advertising firearm sales online. Brady is grateful to Senators Feinstein, Menendez, Booker, Blumenthal and Representative Scanlon for championing this important legislation.”