Facebook is removing any and all pages that promote or enable private firearms sales — regardless of the legality of those sales. Zuckerberg’s minions have extended that ban to firearms dealers. We hope this is an oversight; these dealers submit all purchasers to a federal background check, either at their location or via another federal firearms licensee. And that was the point of the original ban: to engender “universal background checks” by eliminating pages where gun sales might forgo the process. The question is . . .
will Facebook extend the ban further to any and all pages that “promote” firearms sales by their very nature? That’s a serious prospect; a move that would mark a fundamental turning point for Facebook, The People of the Gun and free speech.
In terms of free speech, we must remember that Facebook is a private enterprise. The First Amendment — like the Second — only protects citizens from government infringement on their natural right to speak freely. Just as TTAG is within its rights to delete comments the editors consider offensive, Facebook is within its rights to delete pages.
In terms of Facebook, if they decide to remove entire categories of pages — be it firearms, marijuana or Islam — they will seal their fate. Sure, Facebook’s success depends largely on people sharing the sublime and ridiculous aspects of their life. Cat videos rock! Baby pictures are awesome! Facebook is a fantastic way to keep in touch with people you care about. But the lifeblood of any “social” media is inclusivity, not exclusivity.
If Mark Zuckerberg pursues political correctness, political correctness will pursue Mark Zuckerberg. The more he heads down the road of censorship the more pressure he’ll feel to put the deletion pedal to the metal. The lonelier that road will become. Deleting pages based on Zuckerberg’s idea of social utility will rob Facebook of something critical to its survival: credibility.
Or not. As I said above, cat videos and baby pictures rock! As for The People of the Gun, a Facebook firearm purge would only make us stronger. Not us, per se. And not in the short term. Facebook generates more than 10 percent of TTAG’s daily traffic; we’d feel the effects in our bottom line. I mean us as in those of us who love our guns and our firearms freedom.
Just as ethnic enclaves create a strong sense of community, a populous non-Facebook firearms-friendly social media site (or some such thing) would make The People of the Gun more cohesive and powerful. Such things exist now, but they live off the crumbs that fall from Facebook’s table (as well as YouTube). Facebook’s firearms pages must die for a non-Facebook firearms space to thrive.
I hope Facebook rescinds its ban on gun dealers’ pages. I hope Facebook doesn’t ban gun-related pages like TTAG. I like being in a wider community; it increases the odds of “converting” firearms fence straddlers. But make no mistake, if Facebook kills TTAG’s page, we will not only survive, we will thrive. I don’t know how, exactly, but there’s no doubt in my mind that we will. And that’s the truth.