Washington—Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) today introduced the Stop Online 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.
“While some technology companies have banned selling firearms and ammunition on their websites, the problem persists,” Senator Feinstein said. “Our bill would make it illegal for gun sellers to circumvent websites’ terms of service and continue the underground proliferation of firearms. It’s part of a larger effort that needs to be taken to stop the plague of gun violence in our communities.”
“The fact is, no matter how many times big tech companies claim they’re cracking down on illegal online firearm sales, determined gun sellers and buyers find new ways to get around it,” Senator Menendez said, who has continually called out Facebook for its failure to enforce and monitor its own ban on gun sales. “With this bill, we are making very clear to gun sellers who are caught illegally moving their weapons online: if you make the sale, you will pay the price.”
Some technology companies have banned selling firearms and ammunition on their platforms. However, sellers use tactics like misrepresenting guns as other items to circumvent those restrictions.
For instance, sellers advertise on platforms like Facebook’s Marketplace, claiming to sell stickers alongside images of gun makers’ logos. Sellers typically ask an interested party to send a private message where buyers then learn the posting was actually for a gun sale and receive details and pricing.
Last month, Facebook reported it had removed 1.3 million pieces of content related to firearms between April and June 2020 from its platforms.
“Internet marketplaces like Facebook are the virtual dark alley where unscrupulous gun sellers go to meet dangerous individuals who are trying to get their hands on a firearm,” said John Feinblatt, president of Everytown for Gun Safety. “Stopping these illegal sales would save lives, and we applaud Senators Feinstein and Menendez for introducing legislation to do exactly that.”
“Overwhelming majorities of Americans support policies that ensure that individuals who should not possess firearms are not able to purchase them, including online,” said Kris Brown, president of Brady. “Brady is grateful to Senators Feinstein and Menendez for addressing a dangerous practice of falsely advertising firearm sales online. Such sales are designed to circumvent the regulations that help keep our families and communities safe. This is a common-sense fix to a growing problem that applies the spirit of our nation's existing gun safety laws to novel, 21st century issues.”