A United Nations investigation has revealed that thousands of Australians are buying illegal firearms and other weapons through the Deep Web.
Research by the non-profit RAND Europe institute revealed that Australian citizens are ordering and selling guns and even grenades. It also suggested that people are using the hidden network to download instructions on how to make homemade bombs.
The Deep Web is a part of the World Wide Web in which content is not indexed by search engines, meaning the content is hidden behind HTML forms. Web users can download and install software such as the Tor Browser to access the DarkNet — an area where web pages have been deliberately hidden and encrypted in the Deep Web — using .onion routing.
The institute described the DarkNet as a “global underground network where weapons are illegally bought and sold anonymously with the click of a mouse”. It also claimed that the vast majority of illegal firearms are shipped from the United States, although deliveries were also found to originate from Canada, Asia and South America.
The Australian Daily Telegraph reported that almost all of the online weapons dealers provide worldwide shipping. Product prices typically range from AUD $218 (USD $170) for a small used handgun to $2,495 (USD $1,950) for a fully-automatic submachine gun (SMG).
According to the Daily Mail, the RAND research found that some Australians are using 12 encrypted web markets with more than 160,000 illegal products on sale. It is the largest ever investigation into online firearms markets ever conducted and revealed that guns and explosives can be ordered and delivered within 6 days.
Online vendors typically use deceptive shipping methods to ensure their products make it through customs. This includes taking the weapons apart and sending multiple packages, as well as concealing them inside legal items such as TVs or computer peripherals.
A separate report published this month revealed that more than 50,000 “illegal” firearms were voluntarily turned in or seized in Australia over the past 3 months alone. These included guns manufactured before 1900, semi-automatic weapons and even a rocket launcher.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull released a statement saying, “This is an overwhelming response and represents a significant reduction in the number of unregistered firearms in the Australian community,” shortly after the figures were released.
Gun regulation in Australia is categorized as “restrictive” and the right to private gun ownership is not guaranteed by law. Citizens are banned from owning self-loading and pump-action shotguns, automatic and semi-automatic weapons, and handguns with a caliber greater than a 38. It is illegal to carry a concealed gun in a public place. Dealers are also required to keep records of all weapons and ammunition purchases made and submit them to government regulation offices.
Due to the recent increases in crime rates as well as domestic terrorism, there is currently a large and active market for illegal firearms and explosives in both Europe and Australia. The often called “gold standard” model of gun control in Australia was beginning to collapse even before this revelation. The fact that Australian gun controls have been so easily bypassed could very well hasten its demise. Not to mention calling into question the effectiveness of gun control in general.