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Buying a handgun on the dark web ‘just like buying a bar of chocolate’

A hand on a laptop in a dark surrounding.
It’s too easy to buy guns illegally online. Due to the growth of online gun sales, the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) has established a new team to investigate online gun sales, especially those made via the dark web, as reported on CNN.

The ATF has shut down gun traffickers in Kansas and Alabama who were operating dealerships on the dark web that sold firearms made by Glock, Beretta, Uzi, Highpoint, and Walther, among others, to buyers around the world. According to a teenager who bought a handgun and other weapons materials on the dark web (and who is now serving a life sentence after being found guilty for plotting mass murder), buying a Glock online was “just like buying a bar of chocolate.”

The gun dealers selling on the dark web, the internet’s notorious underbelly, were of course not out in the open. In order for buyers to find and communicate with the gun dealers, they had to use Tor software to browse the dark web, also called deep web or darknet. But the ATF agents found them anyway.

The dark web isn’t just a place to buy and sell guns. Carnegie Mellon University’s Nicolas Christin said that dark web illegal gun sales comprise less than 3 percent of the illegal trading that takes place there, according to Fast Company. According to Christin, most of trade is in illegal drugs. However, guns are sold via the dark web, as well as child porn, stolen social security and credit card data, and other identity theft data.

The ATF is focused on stopping illegal firearms and ammunition sales online. The agency has allocated $4 million to that effort and will hire 200 new agents to track sales, reports Fast Company. The ATF’s Internet Investigations Center, staffed by federal agents, full-on tech specialists, and attorneys, uses the latest technology to identify and provide “actionable intelligence” to ATF field agents.

In other words, the inside agents, legal experts, and techies find the evidence needed to make legal arrests or further an investigation. The field agents take that evidence and either bust, infiltrate, turn, or further investigate suspects, to either gather more evidence or to work their way farther up the supply chain.

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