Facebook recently announced a ban on the private sale of firearms, a move targeting unlicensed gun transactions.

The ban will include Facebook’s Instagram mobile app photo-sharing service, according to the New York Times and other sources.

Facebook already prohibits people from selling marijuana and illegal drugs, but the new ban targets the sale of a legal product, firearms.

Facebook’s apparent concern is that while it is not directly involved in gun sales, it serves as a means for individual buyers and sellers to negotiate deals without undergoing background checks. Users have created groups for the purpose of selling firearms, and Facebook has become one of the world’s largest online market places for guns. 

The ban will not apply to licensed gun dealers. Gun clubs will still be able to keep Facebook pages and use Instagram.

In the United States, individuals can sell or trade firearms without a license, and are under no requirement to inquire into a potential buyer’s background, although many say they do. Anti-gun activists claim that online sales put guns into the hands of people who should not own them and have pressured Facebook to enact a ban for some time.

Federal law enforcement officials have previously expressed concern with social media’s growing potential for facilitating illegal gun sales.

Facebook has not yet made an official announcement to the news media but the policy change has been widely reported since it was first covered in an article Friday in the New York Times.

Photo credit: Flickr CC