Can guns be sold on social media sites?

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) - Would-be sellers look for new ways to connect with possible buyers, and they're finding plenty of opportunities with social media websites. But, a cautious Facebook user asked Eyewitness News some questions after seeing a page with guns for sale.

It turns out you can offer a firearm for sale like that, but the actual transaction comes under several laws.

"The social media can be used for just like putting an ad in the paper," Second Amendment Sports general manager Keith Foster said. "We make contact, but then we've got to go to a dealer, a federal licensed dealer, to run the transaction."

That's the law. In fact, the gun sale then comes under several sets of laws.

"The seller and the purchaser go to a federal firearms licensed dealer, and that's a person who's licensed by the state and by the federal government to sell firearms in commerce," Helen Dunkel explained. She's a spokeswoman with the federal Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms agency.

It's that dealer who gives the buyer two sets of forms to fill out, both federal and state. The dealer also sends the state information about the buyer for a background check. Dunkel said that background check will look for things that would prohibit someone from owning a gun, like a felony conviction, domestic violence conviction, and whether they're in the country illegally.

At that point, there's also a waiting period for the buyer.

"Ten days later, the buyer comes back, and is able to pick up the firearm," Foster said. It's a state law, and the dealer holds the weapon for that 10 days.

And, he said those dealers can be stores that sell guns or individuals who have a firearms license.

"A lot of times we're talking about someone with a store front like this, but there are dealers that work out of their homes and garages," Foster sais. "Part-timers."

That dealer does charge a fee set by the state. Foster said the total cost for the transaction is $35.

The ATF spokeswoman said lists of licensed dealers are available on its website, along with information about the entire process. The website is and its also has a toll-free number, (800) ATF-GUNS.

A viewer also contacted Eyewitness News about seeing alcohol for sale on a Facebook page. An agent in the Alcohol Beverage Control office in Bakersfield said anyone with concerns about that can call them at (661) 395-2731.

At ATF, Dunkel said they watch the social media pages for signs of any problems.

"We definitely are monitoring any type of illegal activities that are happening on social media, we do our best to stop it," she said. Dunkel said they watch for trends, but she wouldn't go into detail.

But, guns can be offered for sale on places like Facebook, it's what happens next that falls under the laws.

"If they just go through, in California, and say, 'Hey, I want 100 bucks for it.' And you say, 'Sold,' and we meet somewhere and just transfer the gun, well, that's illegal," Foster described.

He added that the state and federal forms track the firearms by checking serial numbers, and that's added protection for the buyer.

"You're covering yourself to make sure that you're not receiving stolen property," Foster said.

And the ATF's Dunkel noted buying a gun is not like buying a car or bicycle.

"Be informed," she said. "And don't take it lightly."