As any Democrats worth their salt can tell you, it’s easy for violent criminals to buy guns illegally through any one of a plethora of unregulated platforms. To prove their point once and for all, Representative Elijah Cummings (D-MD), Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Brian Schatz (D-HI) commissioned the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to buy several guns online illegally.
Over the course of two years, the GAO made 72 attempts on the surface web to purchase weapons illegally. They failed. Spectacularly.
That Dastardly Internet
It’s understandable why some might think buying guns online is the easy way to circumvent the law. In most states, private sellers aren’t required to conduct background checks, and the internet is a powerful tool to connect private sellers to potential buyers. Even the ATF claimed that the “anonymity of the internet makes it an ideal means for prohibited individuals to obtain illegal firearms.” This ATF report was the inspiration for the Congressional request to investigate, according to Fox News.
But it turns out that private sellers – even on the internet – seemed unwilling to knowingly break the law and sell their firearms under suspicious circumstances. Could it be that most legal gun owners actually respect the law? Or perhaps it’s because buying guns online isn’t all that anonymous.
There are only two ways to receive a firearm that don’t immediately scream criminal activity. The seller can either hand deliver the weapon in person, or ship it. Neither option is anonymous. Any other requests – like a dead drop – would ring the alarm bells of even the least perceptive seller. Those who intend to sell firearms illegally must realize that any one of those three methods could land them in cuffs should the deal be a set-up.
Over the course of two and a half years, the GAO made 72 attempts to buy firearms online illegally from various private sellers on the Surface Web and seven attempts on the Dark Web. Their methods included posing as prohibited individuals and attempting to convince sellers to ship the weapons across state lines.
Of the seven attempts to buy firearms on the Dark Web, which the ATF says is “completely anonymous and is designed to facilitate criminal activity online,” only two were successful. The first weapon was a semi-automatic AR-15 rifle with an unreadable serial code. The second was a semi-automatic Uzi, which was advertised as fully automatic. Both guns were shipped across state lines. Several crimes were committed in these cases, and the GAO has referred them to the applicable law enforcement agencies for further investigation.
All the Surface Web attempts failed, according to the GAO 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.
Of the 72 attempts, 56 refused to complete the transaction once the agents revealed either that the shipping address was across state lines or that they were prohibited from buying firearms legally. In five more cases, the forum accounts were frozen by the websites for attempting to purchase guns illegally. In the 11 remaining attempts, agents encountered sellers that seemed to be trying to scam them – and they fell for two of the scams, paying for guns and receiving neither the goods nor a refund.
The Democrats Should be Happy
Representative Cummings and Senators Warren and Schatz should be pleased – after all, they only want to ensure that dangerous criminals don’t get access to firearms, right? And as the NRA put it: “GAO’s findings showed nothing so much as that private sellers advertising online are knowledgeable about the law, conscientious, and self-policing.”
As it turns out, we don’t need more restrictive gun control legislation – what we already have does the job as well as anything else would. Fox News stated that the three Democrats did not immediately respond to a request for comments on the GAO’s findings. Perhaps they were too busy celebrating, or could it be they’re just working up their next loophole argument?