We almost certainly won't be allowed to use Libra to pay for firearms.  Even if we are, it probably won't matter.

Facebook has announced it is launching a global currency called the "Libra".  It will be managed by the Libra Association.  This association will have 28 founding members, mostly tech companies.  The vision for Libra is "A stable global cryptocurrency built on a secure network".

The 28 Libra Association members (image courtesy of TechCrunch)

To the question of whether Libra is "real money," the Libra Association's answer is: "Yes. Libra can be used just like any other currency."  The Libra Association claims one of its 3 main goals is an "inclusive" currency that is "as widely accepted and as easy to use as possible".  Facebook's director of the product further emphasized that Libra would be freedom-enhancing:

The name was inspired by Roman weight measurements, the astrological  sign for justice and the French word for freedom, said David Marcus, a  former PayPal executive who is heading up the project.  "Freedom, justice and money, which is exactly what we're trying to do here," he said.

Whether any of this rhetoric applies to firearms remains to be seen.  Libra's acceptable use policy is still forthcoming, and that will tell us whether Libra can be used for firearm transactions.  While we don't know what the Libra Association's stance on firearms will be, we can make a reasonable prediction based on its members.  At least 25% of the Libra Association's members explicitly prohibit firearms from being transacted and/or transported:

  1. Coinbase
  2. eBay
  3. Lyft
  4. Mercado Libre
  5. PayPal
  6. Stripe
  7. Uber

A company called Calibra will probably also be on the list.  We don't know for certain yet, because the company is pre-launch and very little information is available about it.  But it is a Facebook subsidiary, and companies that Facebook owns (like Instagram and Venmo) have historically matched Facebook's anti-firearm stance.  The addition of Calibra would mean at least 8 of the Libra Association's 28 members have formal anti-firearm policies.

Furthermore, Libra Association member MasterCard is under pressure from an activist group to restrict firearm sales.  While that pressure is unlikely to convince MasterCard to reverse its company policy on firearms, it could influence MasterCard's voting for the Libra Association.  Maybe a "no on firearms" vote could be used by MasterCard to appease the activist group.  Regardless, the point is that other members of the Libra Association are already under pressure from anti-firearm groups.

While the above list of companies with anti-firearm policies only covers 25% of the association's members, it probably represents the majority.  That is because the other members have generally not needed to take a formal stance on firearms before.  Consider the music company Spotify, telecom companies Iliad and Vodaphone, and travel company Booking Holdings.  They have never encountered "the firearm question" in the course of their operations.  They are, in a sense, non-partisan on the issue.  Now they will be asked for the first time: "Should firearm transactions be allowed?"  The 25% of the members who have already answered this question for themselves have said "no."  We can reasonably expect the previously-nonpartisan members to say the same.

It is possible that Libra is truly a currency.  In that case the Libra Association doesn't have the ability to prohibit firearm transactions – people will use it for whatever they wish.  However, other intermediaries could prohibit firearms to similar effect.  For example, Calibra is the Facebook subsidiary that is being tasked with creating "wallets" to manage Libra funds.  Wallets are essential to cryptocurrency adoption and Calibra is expected to be the dominant player in that space.  If Calibra prohibited firearm transactions (as you might expect as a Facebook company) that could make it practically impossible to conduct firearm transactions with Libra.

It is also possible that none of the entities involved in the Libra ecosystem will prohibit firearm transactions.  Yet, even in that scenario, Libra probably won't be used for firearm transactions.  Because Libra probably won't be used for much at all.

It's rare for a product idea to be more ambitious than "a new global currency."  Libra would face staggering adoption hurdles even in the best of circumstances, after being developed by a company that people trust.  But Facebook is not a company that people trust.

People are very cognizant of Facebook's frankly corrupt history.  Facebook is an American company yet even Americans "are down on Facebook, with 60 percent saying they don’t trust the company at all to protect personal information."  And if Americans don't trust Facebook at all with simple things like their birth dates, presumably they won't let it anywhere near their money.  That would be shrewd, as Facebook has already proven it can't be trusted with money, either.  It was revealed in 2019 that Facebook deliberately enabled payment fraud on its own payment platform for the sake of its bottom line.  People's mistrust of Facebook is deeply justified.

Libra is great in theory.  If it can be trusted as a currency, and used for firearm transactions, then it will be great in practice.  Unfortunately, neither of those conditions seems likely.