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Democratic-led investigation to expose illegal online firearm purchases fails miserbly

January 9, 2018  |  Posted by: Francesca Falzarano
Democratic-led investigation to expose illegal online firearm purchases fails miserbly

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A Democrat-supported study intended to expose illicit online gun sales instead showed the opposite — with barely any sellers taking the bait when undercover agents tried to set up dozens of illegal online firearm purchases.

Representative Elijah Cummings, along with U.S. Senators Elizabeth Warren, and Brian Schatz had requested that the Government Accountability Office investigate illegal online firearm purchases.

The lawmakers sought information on how on how online sellers might be illegally selling guns to individuals prohibited from owning firearms, according to the Washington Times.

Their attempts were based on a report from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) published in 2016, which alleged that “anonymity of the internet makes it ideal for prohibited individuals to obtain illegal firearms.”

Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Sen. Brian Schultz, D-Hawaii, joined Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., to commission the GAO report. 

“Congressional requesters asked that GAO access the extent to which ATF is enforcing laws and investigate whether online sellers sell firearms to people who are not allowed or eligible to possess a firearm,” the GAO report stated.

Over the course of the two-and-a-year investigation, authorities attempted to purchase guns illegally on the “Surface Web” and the “Dark Web,” by sharing their status as “prohibited individuals” or trying to purchase arms across state lines.

However, the GAO indicated that their 72 attempts outside of the dark-web were all “unsuccessful.”

“Private sellers on Surface Web gun forums and classified ads were unwilling to sell a firearm to agents that identified as being prohibited from possessing a firearm,” the GAO said, adding that in their “72 attempts … 56 sellers refused to complete a transaction once revealed that the shipping address was across state lines or that we were prohibited from owning firearms.”

On the dark web, GAO agents successfully purchased two guns illegally, as the serial numbers on the firearms were “erased” and “shipped across state lines.”

Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., led the charge for GAO to commission the report.

However, during the controlled purchase, GAO officers “failed to disclose information indicating they were prohibited from possessing a firearm.”

Based on the study’s results, the GAO said it is “not making recommendations.”

The National Rifle Association seized on the report to claim that online sales are regulated, referring to the study as an “embarrassment” for the gun control lobby.

“GAO’s findings showed nothing so much as sellers advertising online are knowledgeable about the law, conscientious, and self-policing,” The National Rifle Association stated, noting that online gun transactions are “subject to the same federal laws that apply to any commercial or private gun sales.”

The NRA labeled the study as an attempt to model the findings of former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’ report in 2015, titled “Point, Click, Fire: An investigation of illegal online gun sales.” The report revealed that 62% of private sellers were willing to move with a sale, even if the potential buyer could not pass a background check.

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