Do People Really Buy Weapons From Dark Web Markets?

The US attorney general states that President Obama’s actions on weapons specially target the dark web, however, do people really buy their guns from there? The recent executive actions of the US President are aiming to decrease gun violence in the United States by requiring all gun sellers to not only be licensed but to perform background checks on the people to whom they’re selling firearms to. This involves sellers both at gun shows and online.

Attorney General Loretta Lynch said that internet gun sales are currently booming. She specially mentioned the dark web gun sales in her statement to the media. However, the question is: do dark net gun sales that important to warrant a specific mention from the head of the US Department of Justice?

Fast Company made an interview with Nicolas Christin, assistant research professor of electrical and computer engineering at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU). The professor is one of the researchers behind a recent deep-dive analysis of sales on 35 marketplaces from 2013 to early 2015. According to him, dark web gun sales are pretty uncommon:

“Weapons represent a very small portion of the overall trade on anonymous marketplaces. There is some trade, but it is pretty much negligible.”

On the dark net, the most popular niche is drugs, especially, MDMA and marijuana, which takes around 25% of sales on the dark web, according to Christin’s analysis. However, weapons are so uncommon that they were put into the “miscellaneous” category, along with drug paraphernalia, electronics, tobacco, viagra, and steroids. These together takes 3% of sales.



In 2012, Armory, Silk road 1 weapons section, was shut down by DPR a few months after launch due to lack of business. An self proclaimed insider from the website told Vocativ that the Armory was making just around 10-40 weapon sales per month. In 2015,  Agora also stopped allowing the sale of lethal weapons, so did Nucleus. There just isn’t a large demand for guns on the dark web and it is not worth for the marketplaces to keep the heat from the feds for those few sales – while attracting more heat from law enforcement scammers.

One reason for this is that guns are hard to send through the mail, unlike drugs, which can be easily hidden and shipped in small quantities. Also, the dark web is full of scammers, especially in the category of weapons.

Also, people do not want to buy guns on the dark web. In order to acquire a gun through DNM (dark net markets), a buyer (residing in the USA at least) would actually have to jump through more hoops than they would to buy a weapon in person. Christin made an explanation to this:

“Why would you go through the hassle of purchasing Bitcoin, logging into an anonymous marketplace, purchasing weapons from an online dealer, and potentially going through the further hassle of reassembling various weapon parts shipped in multiple parcels to your house, when you can get these weapons legally, e.g., at a gun show—without much of a background check?”

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