How the American 'Craigslist of guns' is facilitating arms sales to Mexican drug cartels
Gun and clip with cash (Shutterstock.com)

On Tuesday, VICE reported that investigators are looking into the role of Armslist.com, a Craigslist-like website used to facilitate private gun sales, in funneling guns to Mexican drug cartels.

"The role of Armslist and other similar online marketplaces as a source of weapons that end up in the hands of criminals on both sides of the border is growing, law enforcement sources told VICE News," reported Keegan Hamilton. "While federal regulations require stores and licensed firearms dealers to perform background checks on prospective buyers, Armslist connects users for private transactions that can be done with virtually no questions asked, making it easily exploited for 'straw purchases' done on behalf of cartels."

"Thomas Chittum, the ATF's acting deputy director, told VICE News that arms merchants who once had to travel around to gun shows and flea markets can now use sites like Armslist — which hosts classified-style listings for everything from handguns to military-grade firepower like the M249 SAW — to operate remotely and broaden their supply networks," continued the report.

The report documented the case of Jorge Luis Villarreal, a former South Texas oilworker who turned to arms trafficking out of desperation during the pandemic. Investigators found that several guns he sold that turned up in crime scenes across the border in Reynosa, Mexico, had come to him from sellers on Armslist.

An investigation by Everytown for Gun Safety in 2019 found that the prior year, Armslist facilitated some 1.2 million gun transactions without a background check required.

"Armslist and an attorney who represents the company in civil cases did not respond to requests for comment. The site runs a disclaimer that says: 'Always comply with local, state, federal, and international law. ARMSLIST is NEVER involved in transactions between parties,'" said the report. "Elsewhere on the site, Armslist describes itself as 'purely a service provider' that allows sellers to list guns for sale and notes that 'it is the sole responsibility of the buyer and seller to conduct safe and legal transactions.'"

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