Do-It-Yourself Firearms Makers Expand ‘Ghost Gun’ Trade

An underground gun-making industry that enables criminals to elude background checks and bypass gun regulations is creating a growing trade of “ghost guns” that can’t be traced by police.  Ghost guns have been in the spotlight since a California man who was prohibited from possessing firearms because of a restraining order killed five people in a rampage using semiautomatic rifles that he made himself.

An underground gun-making industry that enables criminals to elude background checks and bypass gun regulations is creating a growing trade of “ghost guns,” weapons that can’t be traced by police, the Wall Street Journal reports.  Ghost guns have been in the spotlight since a Northern California man, who was prohibited from possessing firearms because of a restraining order, killed five people in a November rampage using semiautomatic rifles that he made himself. In 2016, a Baltimore man fired at police with a homemade AR-15, and Santa Monica shooter John Zawahri  used a ghost gun in his shooting spree that killed five in 2013. The number of these weapons is unknown.

Because the guns bear no serial numbers, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) is unable to track them. Serial numbers and gun registration play a key role in police investigations, allowing officers to trace a weapon’s history and owners. Ghost guns appear to be most prevalent in California, where there are restrictions on assault weapons that make it difficult to buy guns that are available in other states. The firearms have been seized in investigations in other states, including Arizona, Maryland, New York and Texas. Graham Barlowe of the Sacramento, Ca., ATF office, said the weapons are “a huge problem in my area.” About 250 ghost guns were seized or purchased in undercover buys by his agents last year. “It went from being a niche group of people that were into the gun culture that were the ones making them for themselves,” Barlowe said. “Now, they’ve become so commonplace we’re buying them from 17-year-old gang-members on the street.”

from https://thecrimereport.org