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Dem-ordered study to expose illegal online gun sales completely backfires

Dem-ordered study to expose illegal online gun sales completely backfires

“A Democrat-backed study meant to expose illicit online gun sales instead seemed to show the opposite — with hardly any sellers taking the bait when undercover investigators tried to set up dozens of illegal firearm transactions.

Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., as well as Sens. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, had commissioned the Government Accountability Office report to look into how online private dealers might be selling guns to people not allowed to have them.

Their efforts were based on a 2016 report from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), which claimed that “anonymity of the internet makes it an ideal means for prohibited individuals to obtain illegal firearms.”

“Congressional requesters asked that GAO access the extent to which ATF is enforcing existing laws and investigate whether online private sellers sell firearms to people who are not allowed or eligible to possess a firearm,” the GAO report said.

Over the course of the two-and-a-half year investigation, agents tried to buy firearms illegally on the “Surface Web” and the “Dark Web,” generally by sharing their status as “prohibited individuals” or trying to buy across state lines.
But the GAO revealed that their 72 attempts outside of the dark web were all “unsuccessful.”

“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,” the GAO reported, noting that in their “72 attempts … 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.” In the other cases, the investigators’ website was frozen or they encountered suspected scammers.

On the dark web, GAO agents successfully purchased two guns illegally, as the serial numbers on the weapons were “obliterated” and “shipped across state lines.” But in the attempt to purchase, the GAO agents “did not disclose any information indicating they were prohibited from possessing a firearm.”