Posing as prohibited persons or out-of-state buyers, what happened when government agents tried to purchase guns online?
The short answer. Unless they went to the dark web, they were rejected.
Findings in a two-year study, conducted by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), tell the tale.
For clarity, the “surface web” is the regular internet you and I use every day. For the study, agents went to a variety of online destinations to attempt to purchase firearms, including retailers, auction hubs and marketplaces, classified listings, forums and social media platforms. Who knows, they may have even tested GunsAmerica.
The bottom line is that all 72 attempts “to illegally purchase firearms from private sellers on the surface web were unsuccessful,” as the report stated.
Translation: the majority of online gun sellers are law-abiding.
Agents used a variety of scenarios during the test. Each scenario, whether it was pretending to be a felon or having a dishonorable discharge from the military or living in a different state than the seller and not wanting the transfer to go through an FFL, would disqualify one from purchasing a firearm.
Of the 72 sales, the numbers break down like so: 29 sellers refused to ship across state lines w/o an FFL, 27 refused after they learned that the buyer was a prohibited person, five of the sales were shut down by the website once the buyer entered in profile information disclosing that they were prohibited person or out-of-state buyer and the 11 remaining attempts, well, this is rather interesting.
“In the 11 remaining attempts, we encountered private sellers that appeared to have scammed us, or attempted to scam us, after we disclosed our prohibited status or asked to avoid using an FFL,” stated the report.
“In two of these instances, we made a payment and never received the firearm or a refund,” it continued. “In the remaining nine attempted scams, our agents determined that the seller may not be legitimate and therefore did not complete the purchase.”
Apparently, the GAO agents never read my article: Don’t Get Scammed: Five Tips for Online Gun Buying, Selling. They would’ve been able to see the scammers a mile away. LOL.
Apart from the scammers who are endemic to every internet sales forum out there, regardless of the product, the takeaway is that there are more scrupulous gun sellers on the Internet than feckless ones. This bucks the anti-gun narrative that the internet is a hotbed for illegal gun sales. It’s not.
What’s funny is that Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) was behind this study. She’s one of the lawmakers who called for it. Something tells me these aren’t the results she was looking for. Warren was hoping for some fodder to rail on about the need for criminalizing private transfers or banning online gun sales. #FAIL.
The only success GAO agents had was buying guns on the dark web. The underground internet which is a marketplace for illegal activity. Two out of seven attempts were successful. Agents purchased an AR-pattern rifle and an Uzi. As for the other five attempts, the deals went south for a variety of reasons, e.g. the gun had sold to another buyer, technical difficulties using the dark web, the seller stopped responding, the seller refused to use an escrow account for payment.
Buying a gun on the dark web is the equivalent of buying a gun from the streets. Which is to say, buying a gun from a criminal. No surprise that they scored a few guns. In fact, the real surprise is that the GAO agents weren’t more successful on the dark web. Something tells me that these five illegal dealers caught onto the ruse and purposely terminated the deal.