🎁 'Tis the season to support public service journalism Donate Now

Guns for hire

Marc Sanchez Jul 20, 2012

Gizmodo reporter Sam Biddle didn’t have to search too far to find guns and other dangerous weapons for sale. He just moseyed over to his computer and searched the Internet. Background checks be damned. Biddle found his way to The Armory, a black market site that lets users remain anonymous. Biddle writes:

The Armory wants to make itself hard to access (for obvious reasons that have to do with not going to prison), so it’s not as easy as just firing up any old website. In fact, it’s not really on the web in any traditional sense. To get to The Armory, you need to deploy a free piece of software called TOR. Originally (and ironically) developed by the Navy, it’s become the anonymizing software par excellence among criminals, hackers, schemers, and the otherwise paranoid. TOR routes and reroutes your connection to the Internet through a sprawling maze of encrypted nodes around the world, making it a herculean feat to find out who’s who.

No real money changes hands either. All transactions are made using bitcoins – a kind of alternate currency on the Internet with its own exchange rate (currently one bitcoin is equal to about $9). So  maybe it’s not as easy as walking into the gun show, but Biddle figured it out. He went so far as to get bids to arm a small paramilitary army of 20. And you know what? The dealers took the bait. No transactions were made, mostly because he didn’t have the kind of cash needed to make a purchase, and there’s no telling, really, whether The Armory is even legit. To that point, Biddle writes:

Unless dozens of anonymous figures are all collaborating on one of the Internet’s most bizarre forms of performance art meets con art, the whole thing is just too complicated to be wholly fraudulent. Some of these guys are selling guns. And if you’re someone who doesn’t want to be indiscriminately shot at, that’s a problem.

There’s a lot happening in the world.  Through it all, Marketplace is here for you. 

You rely on Marketplace to break down the world’s events and tell you how it affects you in a fact-based, approachable way. We rely on your financial support to keep making that possible. 

Your donation today powers the independent journalism that you rely on. For just $5/month, you can help sustain Marketplace so we can keep reporting on the things that matter to you.