Report: Illegal gun sales tricky on ‘Dark Web,’ elusive on the surface
By Christen Smith
Federal agents bough ttwo guns from anonymous dealers on the Dark Web: an AR-15, left, and an Uzi, right. (Photo: Government Accountability Office)
A federal report released last week detailed a covert government investigation into illegal online gun sales, uncovering layers of complexity unaddressed by previous studies.
The Government Accountability Office spent more than two years answering gun ads online to illustrate the loopholes prohibited purchasers exploit to avoid the federal background check process — ultimately discovering the biggest road blocks came from sellers themselves.
Between July 2015 and November 2017, the GAO recorded 79 attempts to buy firearms from private sellers online, according its report released Dec. 21. Only two proved successful — from dealers on the ‘Dark Web,’ a deeper layer of the internet accessed through specific software designed to increase anonymity. The untraceable nature of the Dark Web attracts a range of criminal activity, from drug dealing to firearms trafficking to child pornography.
The 72 potential sales initiated at firearm marketplaces on the surface web — the traditional internet accessed through web browsers like Google and FireFox — all fell through. Some 27 private sellers declined the transaction after the undercover agents disclosed their prohibited status and another 29 refused to ship across state lines. Five transactions failed because the involved website froze agents’