Study to Expose Illegal Online Gun Sales Backfires

Rep. Elijah Cummings

Here is a headline you won’t see in the mainstreet media, “Democrat-backed Study Meant to Expose Illicit Online Gun Sales Goes Bust! Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., was joined by Sens. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass. and Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, to commission a Government Accountability Office report to look into how online private dealers might be selling guns to people not allowed to have them. The problem was, quite frankly, you—the honest and responsible gun owning public! The GAO proved what we already know, by definition, law-abiding gun owners are just that—law abiding.

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

The commissioners of the GAO Report were reportedly basing their support on a 2016 report from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), which claimed that “anonymity of the internet makes it an ideal means for prohibited individuals to obtain illegal firearms.” “Congressional requesters asked that GAO access the extent to which ATF is enforcing existing laws and investigate whether online private sellers sell firearms to people who are not allowed or eligible to possess a firearm,” the GAO report said.

The investigation spanned about 2.5 years where agents tried to buy firearms illegally on the “Surface Web”, social media sites and even the “Dark Web.” Agents, at times, portrayed themselves as being prohibited from legally owning a weapon or attempted private sales across states lines. Dozens of attempts outside of the dark web resulted in exactly ZERO illegal sales! “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,” the GAO reported, noting that in their “72 attempts … 56 sellers refused to complete a transaction once we revealed that either the shipping address was across state lines or that we were prohibited by law from owning firearms.” In the other cases, the investigators’ website was frozen or they encountered suspected scammers.

The Dark Web is more nefarious but still yielded little in the way of illegal sales. On the Dark Web, agents were able to illegally purchase two firearms. The serial numbers were obliterated on both guns and they were shipped across state lines. I guess bad people really don’t follow the law. On these dark web purchases, the agents “did not disclose any information indicating they were prohibited from possessing a firearm.” However, anyone selling firearms on the Dark Web with obliterated serial numbers would not have likely cared.

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

Surprisingly, the stunning failure to get law-abiding gun owners to consent to illegal sales caused the GAO to state, “It is not making recommendations in this report.” News agencies have reached out to the sponsors of the reports. However, all have declined to comment at this time. On the other hand, the National Rifle Association had a bit to say about the report and noted that online sales are in fact regulated, calling the study an “embarrassment” for the gun control lobby.

“GAO’s findings showed nothing so much as that private sellers advertising online are knowledgeable about the law, conscientious, and self-policing,” The National Rifle Association said, adding that online gun sales are “subject to the same federal and state laws that apply to any other commercial or private gun sales.” The NRA described the study as an attempt to model the findings of former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s 2015 report, titled “Point, Click, Fire: An investigation of illegal online gun sales” which reportedly found that 62 percent of private sellers were willing to proceed with a sale, even if the prospective purchaser could not pass a background check.

Am I the only one who finds it strange that an anti-gun report commissioned by Michael Bloomberg said 62% of private sellers were willing to proceed with a sale when the ATF could not find even one… Share your answer in the comment section.


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Comments (51)

  1. It would lend credibility to your story if you provided a link to the GAO report or at least included the report title or report number, and publication date. Such important facts are very important to stories like this. It is upsetting that you excluded that critical information. The absence of this basic information is very suspicious and has the appearance of ‘fake news’ tactics.

  2. Mister Mischief being “left of center’ obviously voted for Hillary and supports the liberals who sanctioned this anti-gun study. The NRA is an adamant pro-gun organization because the U.S. has so many adamant anti-gun legislators and media outlets. If you or anyone owns a firearm it is a good idea to join the NRA. Only buy American made? You can make an effort but many products are manufactured/produced in adversarial nations and are built into end products. President Trump is making an attempt to rectify the world trade vs. U.S. trade. I’ll bet Mister Mischief, along with myself have many Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, etc. products in their residence. Just a fact of life. Support the NRA and vote out the Socialist Democrats (all Democrats) and lets live and follow the Constitution.

    1. Wow, just a little bit off when it comes to reading someone’s comment? I’d say you should read my first post & my reply to Steve Wolf again and then introspectively think about some inaccurate judgments you’ve made. Did you miss the words “just a hint left of center”? I didn’t vote for Clinton or Trump…I wrote in my vote for Ohio’s Gov. John Kasich, imagine that. Other than he might be in the closet as someone who opposes a woman’s right to choose when I happen to support that right for women, he is very kind, honorable, trustworthy, decent, intelligent, compassionate, supports equal pay, supports a strong military as well as great care of our veterns, speaks well of people w/o apparent condemnation of race or ethnic background, respects all people regardless of their political affiliation, knows how to govern in a rust belt state no less, respects the Second Amendment in a fair, balanced way, respects our national resources & the environment, understands business & trade, & much, much more. He’d have made a great president!

      There isn’t a single word I wrote supporting the fringe of either party, nor any comments denigrating either centrist right or centrist left leaners. I like to live in peace & I have chosen to practice compromise & kindness as a way of life, supporting all who are moderates, ignoring both fringes as they tend to cause most our trouble along with the current president. I always try my best to be civil with all. I grew up in an era of civility, truth & honesty of much greater quality & depth than exists today, manners, kindness, & respect for all due to having good family stock; both sets of grandparents immigrated here legally from England in 1910. I was really blessed to have good, kind parents who taught me the life meaning of how to behave as a gentleman & BE a gentleman. I try my best every day to maintain peace & not focus on all the selfish-based strife in our great nation. I’ve spent my life as a healer always trying my best to bring people together. We need everyone to return to the middle & learn to get along.

  3. im a retired gunsmith and find this interesting.i have known many people who make straw purchases and sell guns through the news paper or at the range ect with no questions asked if the price is right.
    i have never found someone with a legit business and ffl make a sale without the background check or sell online direct to a customer. i have never had someone offer to sell me direct from an online source.
    the only time i ever saw a sale without the wait and background check at a gun show was from a vender who had lost his ffl due to some book keeping errors as he told it and was selling his inventory as a private citizen at the show. he was allowed to do so by the show promoters.
    most shops and people are going to try to do the right thing but dont kid yourself to thinking there are bad people every where in every business including government and law enforcement. be safe,be smart and have fun shooting.

  4. Once again, it seems that the fedgov will do or say anything to steal our rights. It’s like the idiot senators who want to pass laws against minors buying guns, when it’s already illegal. Lynch Bloomberg Now!

  5. obviously Bloomberg has no problem lying his ass off trying to persuade people of an outright made up lie – so what else is new?

  6. As most people can’t even figure out how to get on the Dark Web, I have to disagree w/ MM’s remarks about that being a fault in this study. And even there, people are very hesitant to commit. I know because I’ve tried to trap some nasties myself.

    1. To Steve Wolf…I think you may have misunderstood my comments about the study being flawed. I believe the members of the Senate & House who were mentioned in the article had proper intentions in requesting a study be done, which doesn’t automatically make them anti- Second Amendment; however the study’s author(s) from the GAO &/or ATF had a flawed basis & premise in designing the study due to existing law governing firearm sales. How do you think ANY FFL dealer would respond to an internet request from a nonpresent person who tells them they can’t legally own a firearm? The likelihood of finding anyone on the regular internet with a FFL selling to a felon or other prohibited individual is virtually nil because whoever sells the firearm must conduct the transaction in person w/the buyer or has to ship the firearm (already paid for by the way) to another FFL dealer in the buyer’s location. In either situation the buyer MUST present him/herself in person w/legal identification in his or her own state & then go through the prerequisite FBI background check & be approved to own/handle a firearm BEFORE he/she can walk out the door w/said firearm. If the traffic occurs on the internet it is most likely first on the dark web, but not through a FFL dealer, or if on the regular web by a very unethicai individual who makes a private, unregistered sale that hurts ALL of us law-abiding firearm owners. These latter 2 means of purchase cannot easily be studied, whereas taking a look at FFL dealers who sell by way of the internet does not provide any loopholes for circumventing the requisite FBI background check.

      The places however that should always be watched for unlawful sales are the parking lots outside of gun shows. I’ve personally intervened twice in my life by reporting 2 unregistered gun sales (handguns) that took place outside 2 different gun shows after overhearing conversations inside the shows indicating they were going to take place. In both cases I chose to become involved as I took an oath in military service to protect & defend the U.S. Constitution (including the Second Amendment) & I still adhere to that oath as a civilian. My multiple CCLs cover me in a significant majority of states, so in both cases I retrieved my firearm from my truck safe as a precaution (I either can’t or don’t conceal carry in gun shows) & I waited outside for the individuals to exit & an anonymous descriptive pay phone tip to the police worked just fine & both buyers/both sellers were caught & ended up going back to jail or exploring the inside of a jail for the first time. Follow-up investigation confirmed that both buyers WERE felons.

      Last comment…the author of this article takes just a tad too much leeway in politicizing the overall picture at the very beginning w/the first paragraph. Many of us who are centrists clearly see both sides of all the issues that go along w/the Second Amendment which I happen to support. However, the 2 sides fighting each other will not accomplish anything, whether it is the private citizens or ALL the politicians on both sides of the aisle. If one complains about the gridlock in our nation’s capitol, yet fervently takes one side or the other, & you can’t share toys in the sandbox & work to a centrist compromise, are you any different than those you complain about? (Steve, this last paragraph is not directed at you…it is there for all to read & think about introspectively.) MM

  7. I don’t find it strange that Bloomberg or any of the anti-2nd Amendment alt-leftists make up statistics and numbers and then claim that those numbers back up their anti Constitutional agenda. The #FakeNews does it daily, the Democrat politicians do it daily, the Hollywood elites do it daily, and the Democrat drone voters regurgitate it daily. There should be repercussions against the people that waste taxpayer funds on such made up nonsense. Just like there should be repercussions against the fake Mueller investigation.

    1. Hmmm. I don’t even know what the “Dark Web” is. Somebody enlighten me. I ain’t stupid, I’m just ignorant.

    2. The dark web is something you really don’t want to know too mych about. It’s primary purpose is connecting criminals to other criminals to purchase illegal things such as stolen property, drugs, trafficked humans and etcetera.

    3. Thanks for the info Gary!
      I work hard to keep a low profile on the internet. I never Tweet, go on Facebook or use any of the Social medias that most people seem to be addicted to. I won’t use a cell phone either.I only use a land line. I use Email only & when I’m away from my computer, I unplug my Ethernet cable. I also refuse to use WiFi. Any communication that’s transmitted thru the air is more susceptible to being hacked.
      Using Ethernet & plugging in only when needed & unplugging when done gives me an extra layer of protection. I can’t be hacked if I’m not connected. I know nothing is perfect, but I keep it as difficult as possible.

  8. Not a great way to conduct a scientific evidenced-based study! What idiot criminal would self-identify as not being able to own a firearm when trying to buy a firearm? (No legitimate firearms dealer would leave any traceable & recoverable email trail or risk selling under the counter.) Even felons for the most part are not THAT stupid to say “I am a felon.” The study should have focused only on the dark web where the darkest filth of humanity live their evil & sordid lives. The study itself was flawed, not the intent behind it or the fault of Cummins, Warren, & Schatz, but rather those who designed the study. Now forgive my digression here but I think this needs to be said for the purpose of introspective thinking on the part of ALL law-abiding firearm owners. I am a life-long centrist who leans only a hint to the left of center & I’m tired of both sides & the “gun control” fight, but especially the NRA’s propaganda. Like Dave Dolbee I grew up in PA & have hunted since age 12, WELL over 50 years ago. I once belonged to the NRA as a youth when its mission was sportsmanship, conservation, & firearms safety. Now, NRA leaders are corrupt, political lobbying hacks, who prey constantly on the fears of law-abiding but often uninformed member & nonmember firearm owners, & what D.C. needs is an end to ALL lobbying! If the NRA & its supporters wanted a righteous cause to work on, how about securing a permanent ban on the importation of firearms/firearm parts (often under a U.S. gun manufacturer’s own labeling), ammunition, & other firearm related accessories made in both Russia & China where those profits all go to the military of those governments which are dead set on destroying our great nation & other democratic nations as well! All of you who call yourselves patriots yet buy any firearms, ammunition, optics, other firearm-related accessories, and/or body armor from Russia, China, or other repressive regimes are nothing less than total hypocrites, helping particularly Russia & China in their ongoing & repeated attempts to undermine our democratic republic! Think about it & buy only “Made in the USA!”

    MM; Vietnam vet; USN ’72-’75; USS ENGLAND DLG-22; hospital corpsman; honorable discharge. Enlisted by choice with NO fake excuse about bone spurs!

    1. amen brother the nra is as much of a problem as the far left nuts, in the early 90s a shop i worked in bought cases of norinco sks at $20 per rifle,far less than the cost to manufacture and sold them for $60 -100. depending on the quality. turns out these guns were being dumped into the U S by the chinese version of the cia. these guns came into the country legal and were sold legal. we had to take off the bayonets to sell the rifles but gave them away as tent stakes lol.

  9. It probably isn’t as much as the last government shutdown, 26 BILLION! I personally feel they, congress and such, should learn how to run the country and not waste the tax payers money trying to rewrite laws that shouldn’t be in the first place!!!!! Just to say, I am a born and raised proud American!

  10. true to form the anti-gun groups are making up the numbers as they see fit.
    It’s like – I have an answer! now I need to find the right question to make the answer work.

  11. I’m in Quartzsite, AZ, for the RV Show. Went through the local “White Sheet” looking at what might be available. About 50% of the ads specified “AZ ID” required. Didn’t even call anybody – most of the asking prices looked to be close to retail. Haven’t checked out the vendors as yet – next week.

  12. Of the twenty-seven word s that appear in OUR Second Amendment I do not see any CAVEAT as to who is allowed or not allowed to Keep and Bear Arms. What part of “The right of the ‘people’ to keep and bear arms” isn’t clear??? AMY restriction is contrary to the Rule of Law and therefore illegal and unenforceable!!!!

  13. Once again another waste of our tax$!!!!!! An our laughable politicians just don’t get that law bidding citizens are just that law bidding, let’s ask both party’s how many laws they have broken while being in office!!! Sad sad sad little jokes our politics are, good thing the rest of the world isn’t watching this train wreck!!!! I would like to see my over taxed paycheck go to something like making sure our vets are being cared for not just tossed away!! Amazing we have enough money to bail the banks outs an give the biggest tax cut in history to our rich companies an fellow republicans an democratic, but if your a family of 4 or just you an your trying to keep from sinking it’s a big F&@$ you!!!! Glad we take care of illegal immigrants that come here illegally!!!!!!!

  14. I wonder what the cost of a two and a half year investigation cost,,and how much real American worries were not looked at because GAO had men looking for ghosts,,,,

  15. I think it’s a eye opener that only the totalitarian anti-Constitutional democrats constantly attempt to violate that which limits their power and here they are again attempting the violate our 2nd amendment inalienable rights. Now that their attempt to violate our rights to bear failed what will happen to them and if nothing why?

  16. Come on Mr. President… DRAIN THE SWAMP!
    END Government PERKS or give them to EVERY American NOW.
    Outlaw Public Servants getting RICH on OUR MONEY. Serve or Leave with nothing, severing all ties, funds & Healthcare for LIFE!

  17. Let’s see. The ATF could not succeed in purchasing online guns without background checks, but the FBI can sell confiscated guns to drug dealers without running background checks on them. (Or maybe they did find the ilk they wanted to sell to that way). I wonder where the true problem with unregistered gun transfers lay.

  18. Your Tax Dollars hard at work. Now imagine if your elected officials worked as hard for you as they do for the Special interest’s that donated money to them to “help” them get your vote. As the Republic crumbles around us, this is what they do.

  19. I can see why it didn’t work! If somebody wants to buy an illegal gun on line, they deffently deserve to be caught! A “criminal” does not have to be an idiot! If somebody were to get an illegal gun, the dumbest thing that they could do is leave a paper trail to there front door!

  20. What a shocker! Anti-gun folks using conjecture and fear mongering to further their agenda, and when their little study proves them wrong, it never happened.

    1. I purchased a firearm online out of Las Vegas when it got to Tn. a mandatory background check for the gun and me, it came back possible stolen hold for police. The police came and confiscated it and left a receipt which was faxed to the dealer!i must say the second gun was here in just a few days, as opposed to the first one, but it wasn’t stolen, I think they thought the gun was going to a ffl dealer not a shop owner who didn’t have to run it unless they sold it, makes a person wonder ?

    1. I’m a retired Police Officer from a suburb that borders the South end of the city that’s currently receiving much notoriety over it’s outrageous murder rate.
      Virtually every gun used in those murders was either stolen, or purchased legally by a gang member who just happened to have a “clean” record. (this applies to where I’d worked as well) There are gang members that have become members of the Police Department of that certain city, and I’ve personally been involved in an arrest of a gang member that had committed and exceptionally brutal robbery, where a tire iron was used. (can those be regulated?) This person, just happened to be a guard at Statesville, the Prison in Joliet, IL.
      The problem that the politicians will never admit to, is that these gang members are the offspring of other gang members, who were offspring of other gang members etc.. It’s a never ending cycle that is nearly impossible to break.
      In closing, urban politicians will continue pointing fingers everywhere but at the real issue, and these murder rates will continue to be used as a rallying cry for the anti-gun lobby, who generally have no idea of what life in a city of that type is actually like. I’d like to see Pelosi spend 1 month living, without her taxpayer funded guards, in the south side of the city I’ve been talking about.
      But then, politicians are never wrong. (just crooked)

  21. In the past 6 years I’ve purchased 2 firearms from a dealer who operates a dual business from his machine shop. He absolutely insists I have a background check every time & it costs me $25.00 each time & he makes me fill out the proper forms & sign them each time. I also have to pay sales tax since he is a registered business. I’m fortunate I’ve known him for over 40 years & he gives me a discount, but he’s very strict about following state & federal laws. I had an FFL license myself years ago & understand about how harsh the punishment can be for a dealer who violates these laws. ATFD agents have the right to knock on your door 24/7 and inspect your books & inventory to see if there is anything illegal on your premises.

  22. I don’t want to be a wet blanket, but when “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, . . . ” you haven’t set a very high hurdle for getting the expected (or unexpected, depending on your point of view) results.

    1. I think you’re missing the point. The feds didn’t contact sellers and say “Hi, I’m not legally able to own a firearm”. They said “Hi, I live in another state. If I meet you somewhere can I buy your gun?” And the study showed sellers knew this was illegal and refused to do so, disproving the Left’s assertion that the average Joe will break the law to make a sale. I’ve sold many firearms online and have encountered potential buyers who wanted to circumvent the law and I’ve refused each and every time.

    2. Well said and TRUE. It would skew the results. I do believe most people would rather avoid any future issues, by just selling to someone else. There is no shortage of customers. I also believe, that most private, single gun sales are made without the question being asked. Most legit people can sniff out a potential “perp”, and simply not sell to that particular person.

  23. I’m sort of curious on Date and Place? Because the “Only” 2-1/2 year Operation I can find took place from 2011 to 2013. And was Locally Dubbed as “Operation Smokin’ Piston” ,,,

  24. I do not see “Sporting” in the Constitution or the any amendment. I do see that a “Militia” is call out in federal and state documents many times. They normally require arms suitable for military use, not “Sporting Use”.
    Stop instilling personal views into our legal regulations.

    1. So you only read the words that suit you? What part of “the Right of the People to Keep & Bear arms shall not be infringed is confusing you? It seems that by reminding us all that a well regulated Militia depends on an armed populace instead of a military Machine, you have been Foisted on a petard of your own construction. Maybe you are so addled that you actually believe your “Legal Regulations” were established without the benefit of anyone’s personal views. Are all Liberals as bereft of sense or comprehension as you clearly are? Did you know we have automatic weapons in 2018? Militias had Flintlocks and cannon… do you know the difference? Here’s 1 more news flash, Comment sections are provided for the airing of Peoples personal views/opinions and often highlight intelligent Folks attempting to help fellow citizens who have ingested the toxic, Liberal/socialist, kool-aide commie punch simply to detox and rejoin their fellow Americans at the Range for a re-introduction into Keep & Bear101. What we like to call Bulls Eye Bingo… Range is Hot!

    2. You are correct, “Sporting” is not in the Constitution, but as you said “Militia” is and Militia at the time the Constitution was written were private citizens bearing their own personal firearms. The army back then used the same weapons. Weapons issued today to our Guard, Reserve, or Active duty military today are not the same. So please, take your own advice. For your information the semi-automatic rifles hunters have today, like the AR-15 or AR-10, have never been issued to the Military. They may look like a military weapon, but they don’t have the options to fire automatically – they are not assault weapons. The AR-15 is a “sporting weapon” used for hunting and/or target shooting. Just like any other weapon, they can be used for illegal purposes, but so can automobiles. Do we ban automobiles from sale to ordinary law abiding citizens because they are also used by criminals?

  25. Here we find Congresscritters who themselves find it difficult to follow the laws of this country trying to illicit illegal activities thwarted in their efforts to “encourage” illegal activities themsleves.
    How ironic.
    But when their little escapade fails, find themselves mute in discussing their failure in any fashion. I’m not the LEAST bit surprised.
    If ONLY those vermin would be so concerned about THEIR peers and self-policing as Honest gun owners, dealers and individuals were/are, MAYBE they could actually get some work done that BENEFITS the country as a whole?
    And laughable, if it weren’t so damned tragic, that is.
    So how much money, time and effort was wasted in this GAO sting operation? Money that could surely have been better used on other, worthwhile, projects?
    I say let’s have a GAO investigation about the nitwits who instigated this probe and see just how dirty THEY are in their OWN houses!

  26. Don’t ya just love when a witch hunt goes wrong. Perhaps the GAO should investigate themselves and their spending habits. Oh wait….theyre on OUR side. Yeah….right.

  27. Typical. Sad, but typical. And I guess we all paid for this amazing information. Ya know, I wish something else would happen to pull the NATIONS focus off guns. Perhaps the frivolous spending practices of our government. Hmmmmmm.

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

    Sounds to me like a rational attempt to verify what the ATF reported. This is what GAO does. And really, how is that different then State Police using underage kids to see if they can illegally purchase tobacco products in contravention of state law from convenience stores?

    1. I completely agree. And as stated by Jim in Conroe above, they did not set a very high hurdle in their attempts.

    2. Well Trebor, I’d like to see the cost analysis of both. I am sure however, there is a considerable difference. Shouldn’t the research method of the ATF been questioned first. Their sources etc. Might have saved the witch hunt altogether.
      Now to the contravention part. We ALL go through our lives walking the razors edge. Going 71 mph in a 65 zone, giving our minor child a tiny sip of champagne at new years. The list is endless and most of us are violators at some point. So, is it the spirit of the law we should be enforcing…..or the letter of the law. If you look hard enough, you’ll find many “laws” in direct conflict with our constitution. Reinterpreting what was written and hiding it in “legalese”. That’s where WE THE PEOPLE should draw the line. Before they narrow our vision so far we can’t see what we’ve lost.
      We “police” ourselves. At least we did, but that seems to be being suppressed as well.

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