People Are Decent, Even Online

Readability

People Are Decent, Even Online

The Gov­ern­ment Tries to Buy Guns Ille­gally, and Fails

The anti-​gun lobby’s use of skewed, mis­lead­ing, or sim­ply incor­rect sta­tis­tics has long been noted. Whether it is inflat­ing the num­ber of peo­ple killed in mass shoot­ing events, or claim­ing that sup­pres­sors allow silent killing, those of us on the con­ser­v­a­tive right have learned to dis­trust the results of “stud­ies” com­mis­sioned by the left.

That’s why it’s grat­i­fy­ing to hear this week that an extremely par­ti­san “study”, designed to show that it is easy to buy guns ille­gally online, found that it isn’t.

As the NRA reports, “the Gov­ern­ment Account­abil­ity Office (GAO) report — “Inter­net Firearm Sales: ATF Enforce­ment Efforts and Out­comes of GAO Covert Test­ing” – was com­mis­sioned by three staunchly anti-​gun mem­bers of Con­gress. Lead­ing the charge was Rep. Eli­jah Cum­mings (D-​MD), Rank­ing Mem­ber of the House Com­mit­tee on Over­sight and Gov­ern­ment Reform, who was joined by Sens. Brian Schatz (D-​HI) and Eliz­a­beth War­ren (D-​MA)”.

The study con­sisted of respond­ing to online adverts for guns, and includ­ing a sug­ges­tion that the “buyer” was barred from buy­ing guns. Ear­lier “stud­ies” had claimed that 62% of pri­vate sell­ers were nonethe­less happy to pro­ceed with the sale.

Some were scep­ti­cal about this, and their scep­ti­cism has been born out in the results of the new study, which found that pre­cisely 0% of pri­vate sell­ers would be will­ing to sell a gun to some­one they sus­pected of being barred from own­ing a firearm.

It turns out that the lure of hard cash, and even the rel­a­tive anonymity of the inter­net, is still not enough to con­vince respon­si­ble gun own­ers to break the law.

The Myth Of The Dark Web

In a com­plete inver­sion of the sci­en­tific method, it seems that the inves­ti­ga­tors started with a con­clu­sion, and designed a study to prove it. It’s grat­i­fy­ing that they failed, of course, but it’s also worth look­ing at the con­clu­sion itself.

This, broadly, is that the inter­net facil­i­tates ille­gal gun sales. To those with as lit­tle knowl­edge about the tech­ni­cal­i­ties of the web as about guns, this might seem to be true. There has been a huge increase in the num­ber of online ammu­ni­tion stores in recent years, and tech­nolo­gies such as blockchain appear to make buy­ing ille­gal weapons absolutely anonymous.

In truth, though, the idea that one can use the “dark web” to buy ille­gal weapons faces one major prob­lem: the decency of the aver­age Amer­i­can. Peo­ple use bit­coins because they are wor­ried about online fraud, not to buy ille­gal rifles. Peo­ple buy their ammu­ni­tion online because it is sim­ply more con­ve­nient to do so, espe­cially in rural communities.

It is, of course, pos­si­ble to buy ille­gal weapons online. The study itself inves­ti­gated the “dark web”, which it wrongly claimed is inher­ently “designed to facil­i­tate crim­i­nal activ­ity online”. Even after drop­ping the sug­ges­tion that the “buyer” was barred from own­ing firearms, the inves­ti­ga­tors were only able to buy two of the seven weapons they attempted to pur­chase. If you were really look­ing to buy an ille­gal weapon, you might have more suc­cess on your local street corner.

In short, though the study attempted to show that it is easy to ille­gally buy a firearm online, it ended up prov­ing the oppo­site, much more reas­sur­ing, con­clu­sion: that the vast major­ity of firearms sell­ers in the USA are aware of the rel­e­vant laws, take their respon­si­bil­i­ties under them seri­ously, and are not will­ing to break them, even for hard cash.

The Government Tries to Buy Guns Illegally, and Fails

The anti-gun lobby’s use of skewed, misleading, or simply incorrect statistics has long been noted. Whether it is inflating the number of people killed in mass shooting events, or claiming that suppressors allow silent killing, those of us on the conservative right have learned to distrust the results of “studies” commissioned by the left.

That’s why it’s gratifying to hear this week that an extremely partisan “study”, designed to show that it is easy to buy guns illegally online, found that it isn’t.

As the NRA reports, “the Government Accountability Office (GAO) report — “Internet Firearm Sales: ATF Enforcement Efforts and Outcomes of GAO Covert Testing” – was commissioned by three staunchly anti-gun members of Congress. Leading the charge was Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), Ranking Member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, who was joined by Sens. Brian Schatz (D-HI) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA)”.

The study consisted of responding to online adverts for guns, and including a suggestion that the “buyer” was barred from buying guns. Earlier “studies” had claimed that 62% of private sellers were nonetheless happy to proceed with the sale.

Some were sceptical about this, and their scepticism has been born out in the results of the new study, which found that precisely 0% of private sellers would be willing to sell a gun to someone they suspected of being barred from owning a firearm.

It turns out that the lure of hard cash, and even the relative anonymity of the internet, is still not enough to convince responsible gun owners to break the law.

The Myth Of The Dark Web

In a complete inversion of the scientific method, it seems that the investigators started with a conclusion, and designed a study to prove it. It’s gratifying that they failed, of course, but it’s also worth looking at the conclusion itself.

This, broadly, is that the internet facilitates illegal gun sales. To those with as little knowledge about the technicalities of the web as about guns, this might seem to be true. There has been a huge increase in the number of online ammunition stores in recent years, and technologies such as blockchain appear to make buying illegal weapons absolutely anonymous.

In truth, though, the idea that one can use the “dark web” to buy illegal weapons faces one major problem: the decency of the average American. People use bitcoins because they are worried about online fraud, not to buy illegal rifles. People buy their ammunition online because it is simply more convenient to do so, especially in rural communities.

It is, of course, possible to buy illegal weapons online. The study itself investigated the “dark web”, which it wrongly claimed is inherently “designed to facilitate criminal activity online”.  Even after dropping the suggestion that the “buyer” was barred from owning firearms, the investigators were only able to buy two of the seven weapons they attempted to purchase. If you were really looking to buy an illegal weapon, you might have more success on your local street corner.

In short, though the study attempted to show that it is easy to illegally buy a firearm online, it ended up proving the opposite, much more reassuring, conclusion: that the vast majority of firearms sellers in the USA are aware of the relevant laws, take their responsibilities under them seriously, and are not willing to break them, even for hard cash.