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The U.S. Government Accountability Office recently set out on a quest to “illegally” purchase firearms on the “surface web” to test how existing laws are enforced.
They were unable to purchase a single weapon during the covert program.
The GAO revealed its methods in a recent report:
Our covert testing involving GAO agents attempting to purchase firearms illegally on the Surface Web were unsuccessful. Specifically, private sellers on Surface Web gun forums and in classified ads were unwilling to sell a firearm to our agents that self-identified as being prohibited from possessing a firearm. In our 72 attempts to purchase firearms from private sellers on the Surface Web, 56 sellers refused to complete a transaction once we revealed that either the shipping address was across state lines or that we were prohibited by law from owning firearms. The scenarios we applied to the purchases were derived from provisions in the GCA. The five scenarios disclosed status information that would disqualify our agents from purchasing a firearm. For example, in one scenario we stated that we were a convicted felon; in another scenario, we informed the seller that we had a dishonorable discharge from the military. In these 56 attempts, 29 sellers refused because they would not ship a firearm and 27 refused after we presented the scenario. Furthermore, in five of these attempts, the accounts we set up on several forums were frozen by the websites, which prevented us from using them after we disclosed our prohibited status or requested interstate shipment and attempted to make a purchase.
Here's a visual representation of the findings:
Even attempted gun purchases on the “Dark Web” proved more cumbersome than one might expect.
Agents attempted seven times to buy guns on the Dark Web — but were only successful twice:
Agents made seven attempts to purchase firearms on the Dark Web. In these attempts, agents did not disclose any information about whether they were prohibited from possessing a firearm. Of these seven attempts, two on a Dark Web marketplace were successful. Specifically, GAO agents purchased and received an AR-15 rifle and an Uzi that the seller said was modified so that it would fire automatically. GAO provided referral letters to applicable law-enforcement agencies for these purchases to inform any ongoing investigations.
Read the GAO's full report here.