San Francisco: Facebook Inc. is banning private gun sales between people on its social network, where users had been coordinating transactions without background checks.

Facebook, which has been taking steps to limit gun sales via its website since 2014, is now banning people from arranging deals in private messages, the company said. It already bans the sale of illegal drugs.

Gun control has become a bigger social issue following a series of high-profile mass shootings, including the 2012 murder of 26 people at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, and an attack in San Bernardino, California, in December that left 14 people dead and 17 wounded. Advocacy groups have lobbied Facebook and other online forums to restrict users’ posts about firearms for sale on their profiles and group pages. While no money changes hands on the site, the groups say it enabled illegal sales by failing to police the conversations that led to them.

“This policy update focuses on private or ‘peer-to-peer’ sales of weapons, not weapons that are being sold in stores or off Facebook through online, licensed retailers," Facebook said in a statement Friday. “Licensed firearm retailers will still be able to post about their goods and services on Facebook while completing sales transactions off Facebook."

As the company works to add features for e-commerce on Facebook and Instagram, its photo-sharing service, the rules for sales on the networks are being updated to align more closely with their advertising guidelines, which restrict some promotions about pharmaceuticals, illegal drugs and firearms.

“We are continuing to develop, test, and launch new products to make this experience even better for people and are updating our regulated goods policies to reflect this evolution," Monika Bickert, Facebook’s head of product policy, said in a statement. Bloomberg