Inside the Backdoor Gun Market That Has Been Hidden in Reddit For Years


The news: Bought a gun on Reddit recently? If you have, you're not alone. According to an investigation by Mother Jones, there have been over 1,000 listings in the last six months on the popular sub-Reddit "GunsForSale."

But the problem isn't necessarily the total of guns being bought and sold on Reddit, it's how the transactions are being made. As The Wire points out, the issue is "the big gaping hole in America's gun laws … Essentially, as long as a gun sale meets the requirements for a 'private transaction' between two citizens in the same state, the sale falls outside of the authority of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives." 

Which means a share of the transactions taking place on Reddit could be completed without a background check or any other requirement necessary to purchase a gun, because it constitutes a private sale. Now, certainly not all of gun purchases on Reddit fall in this category, and as Mother Jones found a lot of sellers on GunsForSale are indeed licensed gun dealers that complete background checks. But the point is that the possibility is there to skirt around certain requirements – that this is an online marketplace that could easily take advantage of a loophole in legislation.

Is this a problem? Well, it could be, if there are actually a rampant number of sales taking place without background checks. Mother Jones reports that one active seller on Reddit, with the username FirearmConcierge, commented on the site: "I know dealers that operate exclusively without doing any background checks" and "I too have been known not to do a background check on some transactions." So it’s a very real possibility.

And gun sales are clearly popular on Reddit. The GunsForSale sub-Reddit has almost 9,000 subscribers, while the more broadly focused Guns sub-Reddit has over 150,000.

Reddit takes a hands-off approach to gun sales on its site. According to Mother Jones, "Reddit does not know … if the gun sales done through its site are done legally: The company does not track commercial transactions between its users."

In the wild-west of the internet, there might not be a way to know if gun sales are completed with background checks. What we do know is that they’re happening frequently on Reddit, and the loopholes exist to allow transactions without background checks easily.