After an intensive study of darknet markets, it has come to this writer’s understanding that lethal weapons are readily accessible by anybody from anywhere.
Specifically, Berlusconi Market offers a wide range of weapons for buyers to choose from.
In most darknet markets, like Dream Market, there are many vendors selling firearm guides, but not the weapons themselves. This has given Berlusconi Market a step ahead of other markets as there are dozens of vendors from all parts of the world offering all kinds of weapons.
The marketplace requires one to register for full access to the listings available with their vendors. This is a privilege to their registered users who want to request and buy anything—from digital services to tangible goods that need to be shipped.
Since in most countries, gun sales are highly regulated or even banned, dark web-based vendors are taking advantage of the demand in the illegal market.
There are a lot of weapons available in Berlusconi Market. Some are shipped worldwide while others are only sold locally. Depending on the complexity and size of the weapon, the value will change with time and urgency.
According to the site, the weapons are categorized as follows: ammunition, pistols, long-range guns, explosives, hard weapons and other.
In categories like ammunition, all sizes and sorts of bullets are found among the listings. A vendor like Veronique has in stock ammunition which he sells in a range between 20 to 80 (EUR) on the upper-end per piece.
In the category of long-range guns, a vendor by the name Goblin-King sells Russian-made Saiga MK (7.62×39) for about 3,000 EUR, which is equivalent to 0.436207 Bitcoins. The vendor offers the service with full escrow protection where he never asks the customers to finalize early until the buyer is satisfied with the product.
Other lethal weapons are found in the explosives category, which includes mostly grenades and other chemicals used to make bombs. One such vendor who goes by the alias hitman007 offers an M2 pineapple hand grenade with a minimum order of 10 pieces.
In the category of hand weapons, there is a mix of listings ranging from knives, swords, and Tasers—all sold by different vendors. One vendor who sells professional Tasers, going by the alias DutchDrugz, sells a 7,000 KVolt Taser at 35 EUR, equivalent to 0.005098 Bitcoins.
Most of the vendors selling weapons go for pistols, just because they’re small, in high demand and shipped efficiently worldwide. One such vendor is alexandrea, who sells a Glock 26 pistol at 1,257.12 EUR, which is equivalent to 0.183687 Bitcoins.
In the whole process of acquiring a gun, the most dangerous part comes when shipping from the vendor’s location to the customer. This is because the widely used mode of transfer is via postal service, which is currently monitored by different law enforcement agencies due to the same reason darknet users are exploiting it.
Once a customer has placed an order with the vendor, there are conditions to be met by the buyer—namely that payment can only be accepted in cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin for the transaction of the firearm.
Most of these weapons are shipped by stashing the items inside other legal commodities like electronics, books and even clothes set for export. This greatly reduces the suspicion of any illegal product being transported within the package.
Usually, the address used on the receiving end does have any relationship with the customer. This is a security measure to assure the customer is not being set up by undercover police officers.
Once the weapon is received and inspected for quality, most of the vendors request for the customers to finalize the payment, which is secured in the market’s escrow. Feedback is vital to the vendor as they use it to vouch for other customers.
Understanding this, law enforcement agencies are thoroughly scanning parcels and other items sent via postal services to catch those involved in illicit sales on the dark web. Their investigations have, at times, brought to book some of the offenders, including former police partners who were involved in the online weapons trade.
Dangers Posed by These Weapons
Across the world, fatal shootings associated with weapons in the wrong hands have been on the rise.
Since there is very minimal control of weapons sold through darknet markets, regular customers often end up being criminals involved in drug cartels or terrorist groups.
Currently, in the U.S., a recent spike in school shootings has greatly affected the day-to-day living of citizens across the nation.
Though the U.S. is not alone in experiencing increased gun-related casualties, it ranks highest for civilian firearm ownership. According to statistics, the rate of gun possession per 100 people in the U.S. is 101.05. This rate includes both illicit and licit firearms.
As a result, law enforcement is stepping up their game in the hunt for dark web vendors, market admins, and users who are involved in the online weapons trade industry.
Different investigative law enforcement agencies are combining forces to mitigate the ever-growing weapons menace.