Federal agents posing as criminals were unable to purchase any firearms from legitimate online marketplaces despite dozens of attempts over a two-year period.
Between July 2015 and November 2017 investigators from the Government Accountability Office (GAO), following up on a congressional request, tried to make the illegal private gun purchases through a number of online forums and market places. They made 72 attempts over that time but couldn’t complete a single sale using legitimate sites.
In 29 attempts the gun sellers refused the sale after being asked to illegally ship the gun to the buyer. Twenty-seven sellers refused after being told the potential buyer was a felon, domestic abuser, or otherwise prohibited from buying a firearm. Eleven sellers attempted to scam the investigators after finding out they were prohibited from buying firearms with two successfully obtaining money from investigators but never sending the promised firearm. Another five attempts to illegally purchase firearms were ended when the investigators’ accounts were shut down due to suspicious activity.
“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,” Seto J. Bagdoyan and Wayne McElrath of the GAO’s Forensic Audits and Investigative Service section said in a report on the investigation released in November.