Government Going After Guns On Dark Web

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’ accounts and 11 more sellers ran scams on agents after learning of their desire to circumvent federally licensed firearms dealers.

“In two of these instances, we made a payment and never received the firearm or a refund,” the office said in the report. “In the remaining nine attempted scams, our agents determined that the seller may not be legitimate and therefore did not complete the purchase.”

Undercover agents reported limited success on the Dark Web with the purchase of an AR-15 and an Uzi — advertised as fully automatic — that were shipped across state lines through the United States Postal Service.

The GAO said five of the seven Dark Web attempts failed because sellers stopped communicating with agents, experienced technical difficulties or refused payment from an escrow account.

The office conducted the investigation at the request of members of Congress engaged in the debate about the role of existing gun laws in preventing mass shootings. No recommendations were made.

Everytown for Gun Safety President John Feinblatt lauded the results as further proof of the country’s problem with unregulated gun sales, but criticized the office’s investigation technique.

“Unfortunately, the new paper is only so helpful — GAO undercover investigators took the unusual step of asserting that they were prohibited purchasers, effectively stopping these sales before they could be completed,” he said. “But time and again, Everytown’s research has shown overwhelming evidence that guns are readily available through unlicensed sellers, online and at gun shows, and prohibited purchasers flock disproportionately to those venues to buy guns without a background check.”

The ATF arrested more than 12,000 prohibited purchasers between 2014 and 2016, according to the report. The agency also arrested 322 unlicensed dealers, 204 private sellers for transferring guns to disqualified buyers and 53 more for the unlawful interstate transfer of firearms. Nine out of 10 defendants in these cases received a conviction.


  • Alan404

    One wonders as to how many of the arrangements mentioned might have crossed the line between “investigation” and “entrapment”.

    • cyberscan

      Probably quite a few!

  • Rodney

    I agree with Alan404. I will say, however that getting crooks off the streets or in this case the web isn’t all bad. If a private seller doesn’t know the laws, they should not be selling. For unlicensed dealers, dumb, dumb, dumb. I bet a good number of the unlicensed dealers were peddling stolen guns, maybe some of mine.

    • cyberscan

      If people want to own guns, they are free do do so. Prohibiting a person not imprisoned from owning a gun is against their Second Amendment. With that said, if someone tell a gun seller that they are a “disqualified” person, the gun seller needs to understand why that information is being given – to set someone up for an arrest for violating an unconstitutional law. As for “disqualified” persons getting guns from over the Internet, it’s not that difficult for a resourceful person to get the parts to make his or her own.

      • Rodney

        What are trying to say? Is this some attempt to talk down to me or are you thinking I don’t know the laws and constitution?

        I am sure the “investigators had set up false ID’s that also showed they were not qualified for gun puchases. Anyone comes to me and tells me they aren’t legally capable of buying something, all conversation stops there. Only those intent upon getting guns into unqualified hands would continue. Personally, I don’t think we need those people selling guns. As to the building of unregistered guns…well Duuuuhhhhh!

        • cyberscan

          Every person not imprisoned is “qualified” to own firearms. At least that is what the Second Amendment is supposed to guarantee. I bet you are right about the false I.D.

          If a stranger were to come up to me and say, “I’m an ex-con, and I need a gun,” what else should I believe other than that guy is a person trying to set me up. That is common sense.

          As for gun control, I’m glad that information, tooling, and technology make it possible for all people to be able to exercise their rights. I think this is a good thing!

          I don’t own guns as I think guns and explosives are primitive (for home defense). However, I believe that all people not in prison have the guaranteed liberty to own weapons. If government is allowed to tell people what weapons they can or cannot own, then it is very possible, that what I used to defend my home may be one day outlawed.

          • Rodney

            Depending upon the state and ones felony conviction you may or may NOT be allowed your 2nd amendment rights. Violent felons almost always are restricted. In some states, non-violent felons recover their rights.

            The only gun control I believe in, aside from being able to hit your target consistently is NO violent people should ever be allowed a weapon, violent felons, radical Islamist’s, MS13 or thugs on the street (an aside would be a person with serious psychotic troubles be restricted) . How we do that…well…I don’t really know. It is my belief that a weapon for home defense in this day and age is an essential tool. There are responsibilities to owning a weapon however. A friend and I both were robbed of our weapons some time ago. None of mine ever showed up, two of his were picked up in raids on gang houses. Both of his had been rendered illegal (both were shotguns). I think mine were stolen by someone I was acquainted with while his were stolen by regular burglars. We both now have gun safes that may never be moved and sure as hell not broken into without much time or explosives. LOL

          • cyberscan

            If one is not allowed his or her “Second Amendment Rights,” would that be what is called, “an infringement?” The fathers of this country defeated the world’s mightiest army at that time. They put a guarantee in the government’s founding document to make sure the government never again holds so much power over the heads of the people.

            That power is the Second Amendment. The fact that the GOVERNMENT prohibits people from owning weapons is the crime itself. Punish people for committing a crime, not for owning a tool.

            First, they took the gun liberties from slaves. Then they took gun liberties from “felons.” After that, they took gun liberties from those convicted of certain misdemeanors. Next, will it be for traffic offenses? “Code” violations?”

            When GOVERNMENT determines who is allowed to own a gun, is it no longer a right but a privilege? This is why I am a big supporter of open source gun making technology.

            AS far as Radical Islamists, MS13, etc. are concerned, if they come after people, aim straight with a steady hand and take your shot to protect the innocent.

          • Rodney

            US Federal code 18 sec 922(g)


            You can see it explained there.
            Personally, some people have no business holding a weapon, let alone owning one. I once had a friend that fell into that category.

          • cyberscan

            Most of that act of CONgress is an infringement on the right to keep and bear arms. You might be right about your friend “Having no business” owning a firearm, but that is beyond the lawful limit of government to interfere. Now if your friend does something stupid and accidentally injures or kills someone, he or she can be held responsible for that.

            But, when does the governments of this country actually obey the Constitution? Rarely.

          • Rodney

            It is called a Criminal Code. It is completely constitutional and has been tested. I guess you would be okay with killers, rapists, child molesters and other scum running free? Why do you feel everyone should be allowed to own weapons without qualifications?

          • cyberscan

            The law is meant to deal with those who violate the rights of others
            such as killers, child molesters, etc. The law is to keep them off the

            Yes Sir, I believe that everyone not institutionalized should not be prohibited from owning weapons without qualifications. That is what is
            written in the Constitution.

            The founders of this country were themselves “criminals” and traitors to the British Crown. They wanted us to be able to have guns to protect ourselves FROM the government. The courts and legislators routinely IGNORE the
            Constitution in the name of “compelling interest” of government as in the case of unconstitutional parts of your “criminal code.”

            ownership is provided for in the Constitution. Please show me where in
            the Constitution is “compelling interests” is mentioned or provided for
            in that document, and I may be willing to change my opinion.

          • Rodney

            Let’s ponder this before we go into the Eighth Amendment. The recidivism rate of violent offenders is 56.6%. Are you will to wear the blood on your hands for those killed, maimed or injured? I’m not!

            The 8th Amendment, while speaking most directly to the death penalty, it is what gave the federal and state government the authority to formulate and codify a set of laws for criminal prosecutions and punishments.

            Another way of looking at it would be the drunk who drives and keeps getting arrested, has many accidents causing injuries. Do you allow him to maintain a license?

            I appreciate your absolutist opinion on the constitution as I have a degree myself. On the issue of violent offenders being allowed to attain legally the tools for greater violence, I just cannot go there.

          • cyberscan

            Let’s look at the practical situation then. With gun making technology available to even the semi-skilled, all the “laws” in the world are not going to keep guns out of the hands of violent people who want them. There are other things much more harmful or destructive than guns and explosives that evil people can get a hold of if guns become unavailable to them. I would rather they use the limited mayhem of such tools as guns and explosive that a nearly unlimited mayhem caused by some of these other weapons.

            Besides, it is the CRIMINAL with the blood on his hands. It’s not the government, you, me, or any other ardent defender of liberty who is going to have blood on their hands if a violent person gets a hold of a weapon or tool. It is the offender who used the tool or weapon to murder or maim someone else who is the wrongdoer with blood on their hands.

            I have no problem with punishing criminals, but when their time is up, their time is up. There is another bad effect of permanent prohibition. One can go to any crack neighborhood, and you can see the effects prohibiting ex-cons from owning any weapons. Instead of having an inanimate object that can be used in an emergency, ex-cons are forced to use a living thinking weapon called a pit bull or other dog. Ex-cons with guns are also going to me more hesitant to use them in self defense or in defense of neighbors due to the danger of them being thrown into prison. Current violent criminals will continue to use them.

          • Rodney

            It is obvious, you and I will never agree on this subject. If only we could shrink the force of lawyers, perhaps all things could be better.

          • cyberscan

            Now that, Sir, sounds like a great idea to me!

        • Terry Butts

          IF you read the story out of the 72 attempts that was were the conversation ended except for 11 scammers that tried to rip off the people they believed to be criminals trying to illegally get guns. Several of the web sites they claimed were aiding in the illegal sales actually FROZE their accounts for trying to make illegal purchases in violation of their policies.

          • Rodney

            Yeah, I read that too.

  • Terry Butts

    “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’ accounts
    and 11 more sellers ran scams on agents after learning of their desire
    to circumvent federally licensed firearms dealers.”

    So basically they were not ILLEGALLY selling guns 27 declined (complying with the law) to sell to people prohibited from buying guns another 29 declined (again complying with the law) to ship firearms OUT OF STATE then five transactions failed when the websites NOTICED THE ILLEGAL ATTEMPTS and froze the accounts and 11 tried to scam the people they believed to be criminals trying to circumvent the law.

    This kind of deflates their propaganda that the “dark web” is a major source of illegal firearms. This also treads dangerously close to the illegal activity the government did a while back when they KEPT A CHILD PORN SITE OPERATING after seizing its servers in an effort to sign up more “customers” to the site to prosecute under a warrant that was to SHUT DOWN the site and prosecute its operators and existing clients. As they are SOLICITING private citizens in an effort to get them to break the law.

  • danny stout

    i wonder how much of this was done under the watch of the prior liberal regime that underwrote the gun giveaway during holders brief stint

  • Blakbonus

    Probably quite a few!