GAO-18-24, INTERNET FIREARM SALES: ATF Enforcement Efforts and Outcomes of GAO Covert Testing

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"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 lawenforcement
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."