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Member since: Tue Jun 29, 2004, 07:38 PM
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INTERNET FIREARM SALES: ATF Enforcement Efforts and Outcomes of GAO Covert Testing

As it turns out, it is not as easy to buy firearms illegally on the internet as the gun control advocates would have one believe.

eta: Or at least, private sellers are much more conscientious than gun control advocates claim about "internet sales".

What GAO Found
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) is responsible for investigating criminal and regulatory violations of firearms statutes and regulations that govern firearms transactions, including sales that are facilitated by the Internet. Two components of the Internet may be used to facilitate Internet firearm sales: the Surface Web and the Dark Web. The Surface Web is searchable with standard web search engines. The Dark Web contains content that has been intentionally concealed and requires specific computer software to gain access. ATF created the Internet Investigations Center (Center) to investigate buyers and sellers who use the Internet to facilitate illegal firearms transactions. The Center uses several tools to provide investigative support to ATF, which has resulted in the arrests of individuals using the Internet to facilitate illegal firearm purchases. ATF officials with the Center also noted that investigations might involve both the Surface Web and the Dark Web. For example, to identify an anonymous user on the Dark Web, the Center works to establish a user's “digital footprint” on the Surface Web.

In 2016, the Center also issued a report about Internet firearm transactions. This and other ATF reports highlighted the following about Internet-facilitated firearm transactions:
* The relative anonymity of the Internet makes it an ideal means for prohibited individuals to obtain illegal firearms.
* The more anonymity employed by a firearms purchaser, the greater the likelihood that the transaction violates federal law.
* Firearm transactions that occur on the Dark Web are more likely to be completed in person or via the mail or common carrier, versus through a Federal Firearm Licensee.

GAO agents attempted to purchase firearms from Dark Web and Surface Web marketplaces. 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.

Tests performed on the Surface Web demonstrated that private sellers GAO contacted on gun forums and other classified ads were unwilling to sell a firearm to an individual who appeared to be prohibited from possessing a firearm. Of the 72 attempts agents made to purchase firearms on the Surface Web, 56 sellers refused to complete a transaction: 29 sellers stated they would not ship a firearm and 27 refused after the disclosure of the undercover identities' stated prohibited status. Furthermore, in 5 of these 72 attempts, the accounts GAO set up were frozen by the websites, which prevented the agents from using the forums and attempting to make a purchase.

Link to full report: https://www.gao.gov/assets/690/688535.pdf
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