Officials concerned over Instagram gun sales

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - If you thought Instagram was just for teens or cute photos, think again. This and other social media sites are a growing marketplace for people to buy and sell guns, but law enforcement worries it could provide an easy avenue for weapons to fall into the wrong hands.

Gun shows and gun stores have been popular places to buy and sell guns across the United States for years. Now though, the marketplace is moving online and onto popular phone applications.

Instagram, which averages 55 million photos a day, is one of the hottest places for gun sales to date.

All you have to do is search for hashtags like "guns for sale,"  "AR15" or "rifle" and thousands of advertisements pop up like a modern day classifieds section.

Some people do it in part to help earn a living like one local man who did an exclusive interview with 41 Action News on Wednesday. He asked that his name not be revealed.

"You could post a gun and if you have a reasonable price on it, you could probably have six to seven emails in an hour," he said. "It's a little scary that some of the individuals I have seen buying and selling guns without doing any sort of background check." 

He showed our crew some of the handguns he purchased on Instagram just this past week. When we took the information to the authorities, they clearly said none of the buyers or sellers are doing anything wrong by using the social media site as a platform for sales. But when we asked the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Spokesperson John Ham if this provide loopholes for illegal sales, he answered, "I think it absolutely does."

"Where ATF would become involved is if that gun is sold how that transaction takes place," Ham said.

Ham said the bureau has recently created a special branch to investigate illegal cyber guns sales. He went on to explain that the illegal activity usually stems from purchase made across state lines and or not knowing who the buyer is.

"It's that very small percentage that's out there that uses the internet to hide behind," Ham said.

Our internet seller said he only makes deals with people in the same state he is in and said he always has both parties fill out the federal 4473 form which checks people's history, something the law doesn't require in a private sale.

"I've ended sales where I just haven't felt right, you know? It's a moral thing and I'm pretty sure it's a legal thing. I am sure someone could come back at me if I've put a gun in the hand of someone who wasn't supposed to have one," he said. "If somebody wants to offer me by asking price right off the bat, or is willing to pay me more than what I am asking, that's a red flag."

There may be more regulations in the near future on social sites, but until then, the biggest concern is safety.
"Every law abiding citizen should have the right to own and use a gun, they key word is law abiding," said the gun owner.

We also checked to see what the rules are on other sites. Gun sales are not allowed on Craigslist and Twitter, but Facebook does not regulate this activity on pages.

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