The government undercover and accountability office released the results of its undercover attempts to purchase firearms and weapons on the famous marketplaces of the dark web with an intention of collecting intelligence on what particularly happens there. The attempted surface web purchases and trades were made “through a wide range of scenarios developed to make the seller believe that the transaction would be illegal.”
The dark web is not indexed and its access is only made possible via the “Tor browser” that allows users to browse without giving away their identity and the location from where the browsing has taken place. This makes a safer marketplace for anyone with a criminal’s intention as Individual logins and all transactions are masked.
The undercover agent involved in the test said that with the aid of the dark web, bitcoin and its anonymity are being used actively in buying and selling of illegal goods and services especially drugs and firearms.
The attempt to buy firearms on the dark web by the two government agents without disclosing whether they were banned from handling firearms was successful in two of their eight attempts. In one of the successful attempts the agents purchased an Uzi semi-automatic AR-15 rifle which had been advertised as a fully automatic weapon from a seller on a dark web marketplace. The purchased AR-15 rifle had an obliterated serial number and an Uzi which the seller said was an automatic modification.
The agents made a total of 78 purchase attempts on which 58 sellers refused to complete the purchase process. 31 of them categorically stated that they would not be willing to ship a firearm while 29 sellers refused after they disclosed their identities as undercover agents. In seven of the attempts the agents’ accounts were blocked by the websites and henceforth prevented from accessing the marketplace and attempting to make any purchase on dark web.
In some cases the sellers stopped replying to conversations, others later said the gun was not for sale any longer and others refused to use legal accounts for the payment or had difficulties in payment. In another eleven attempts, the agents were scammed or an attempt to scam them was in process before they realized and stopped the transactions.
“The dark web is completely anonymous. Old and new firearms and other weapons are available on online darknet marketplaces as compared to standard surface web.” the agent added.
Having noted that the dark web is a hiding place with access to specific domains that require unique software to gain access, their report did not have any recommendation on what was found as the legal framework controlling the trade of weapons and firearms.
“Most online firearms trades and transaction are usually between unlicensed individuals and are generally not directly subject to required background checks,” the agents reported.
In 2016, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), reported that the dark web, bitcoin, and the general internet anonymity made it extremely difficult to completely stop and control unlicensed firearms sales among other illegal traders on the net. However, Massachusetts officials have warned those committing online related crimes, especially the sale of firearms saying that the state is working on laws aimed at reducing gun related violence as well as monitoring internet for criminals.
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