Illegal weapon trade flourishing in dark web, study says

dark web

A new study conducted by researchers at Michigan State University has found that illicit weapon trade is flourishing in the dark web. The research revealed that firearms are anonymously bought and sold around the world at the time where debates over gun regulations make headlines all across the world.

Dark web: The hottest hub of weapon sales

"We know so little about the distribution of firearms sold on the dark web that it's kind of a black hole, similar to illicit pharmaceuticals and narcotics: We know people buy them online, but we don't know to what extent. The more we understand how guns move, how they are sold and what types of guns are available on the dark web, the more we'll understand how the internet can serve as a niche market for gun distribution," said Thomas Holt, a professor of criminal justice at the Michigan State University and co-author of the study in a recent statement.

Holt revealed that most of the firearms listed for sale in the dark web are not military grade weapons, but mere handguns which anyone can purchase with a license in the US. During the study, researchers found that 64 percent of the advertised guns were handguns while 17 percent were semi-automatic long guns. 4 percent of the firearms listed in the dark web was fully automatic long guns.

"What I found most surprising was that most of what we saw wasn't rifles of military-grade weapons. Instead of exotic or rare firearms, we saw handguns - the kinds of weapons someone in the U.S. could buy from stores or vendors with a license. Additionally, the price points of these guns weren't drastically different than what you'd find if you were buying legally. These observations beg the question, 'why the dark web instead?" added Thomas Holt.

Researchers also noted that most of the people who embrace the dark web for buying firearms are the ones who would not be able to purchase weapons legally from their respective countries.

What is the dark web?

The dark web is basically the World Wide Web content that exists on darknets and overlay networks. To access this content using the internet, it demands specific software, configurations, or authorization to access. Interestingly, the dark web will not be indexed to web search engines, and users will not be able to access them through a normal Google search.

Apart from weapon trade, the dark web is also known for organizing terrorist activities, hoaxes, illegal pornography and fraud services.

The research report was published in the journal Deviant Behaviour.