Hidden Networks

It may not be a shock that the dark web, the online networks that aren't readily accessible to the public, is a hotbed of illegal gun sales.

What is surprising is that almost all of the guns up for sale are available to buy legally in the U.S., according to research published last month in the journal Deviant Behavior. The study suggests that dark web customers may simply be trying to skirt local gun control regulations — and once experts understand how these guns move, they may be able to intercept and stop the trade altogether.

Looking For Answers

Most gun sales — 64 percent of those tracked in the study — were for handguns. Only four percent were for military-grade, automatic 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," Michigan State University researcher Thomas Holt said in a university-published press release. "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?'"

Dodging Laws

"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," said Holt "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."

Editor's note 4/24: This story has been updated to correct an error about which university employs researcher Thomas Holt.

READ MORE: Illegal weapon trade flourishing in dark web, study says [International Business Times]

More on guns: A Court Just Sent a Man to Prison For 3D Printing a Gun

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