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Thu Jul 20, 2017, 06:38 AM

How the dark webs gunrunners covertly ship US weapons to Europe

20 July 2017

By Timothy Revell

After a mass shooting at a McDonald’s in Munich in 2016, authorities said that the gunman probably purchased his weapon on the dark web. But this was just speculation, as very little is actually known about the sale of weapons on anonymous marketplaces in this subset of the internet.

Now, a report published by the RAND Corporation provides the first detailed glimpse into this hidden world. It is “a good overview of the current situation”, says Julio Hernandez-Castro at the University of Kent.

The report reveals an alarming pattern: the majority of vendors are based in the US and are willing to ship worldwide, with Europe the biggest source of profit. Lax gun laws in the US are undermining stricter rules elsewhere.

And while absolute numbers are still small – accounting for less than 1 per cent of items sold on the dark web – capabilities go far beyond simply putting a gun in the mail. From manuals on how to create explosives to detailed instructions on how to disassemble and ship a gun to various overseas destinations, the information and technology available to purchase is well-placed to facilitate lone-wolf attacks.

Anonymous marketplaces
The dark web is a subset of the internet that requires specific software to access so that users can remain anonymous. Not all of the items for sale in dark web marketplaces are illegal, but the promise of anonymity makes it easier to subvert the law. “It could revolutionise how normal people purchase firearms. It’s a game changer,” says Giacomo Persi Paoli, lead author of the report.


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