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Ghost guns causing epidemic of crime in America

Manufactured guns are legal and available for purchase from and by retailers in the U.S. Manufacturers such as Glock, Springfield Armory, Smith & Wesson, and Mossberg, to name a few, sell all sorts of firearms ranging from handguns and shotguns, to assault rifles.

When an American citizen purchases a gun from accredited firearm retailers, they must undergo a background check, be 21 years or older to purchase a handgun, 18 or older to buy a long gun and have no criminal penalties that prohibit them from purchasing and owning a firearm.

What are ghost guns?

Although innumerable laws regarding the distribution, purchasing and owning of firearms and gun laws vary in different states across America, individuals still find ways of obtaining a gun regardless of jurisdictional firearm laws. Aside from individuals possessing manufactured guns, whether they can legally own them or not, a new dilemma is emerging in the world of firearms. That dilemma is the rise of ghost guns.

Ghost guns, or homemade guns, are firearms constructed by an individual rather than a corporate or government entity. These guns are primarily comprised of unfinished frames, receivers and additional components needed for the mechanism of firing the gun.

Furthermore, Ghost Gun kits are sold worldwide and are a full assembly of parts needed to produce a homemade gun. Not only are ghost guns available for purchase online, there is no background check required to obtain one. Along with this, ghost kits are advertised deliberately using phrases such as “no background check required” “unserialized” and “no age requirement”.

Consequently, criminals, gangs and children can purchase ghost gun kits and assemble their own guns.

The crucial dilemma

Besides the fact that anyone can purchase a ghost gun or a ghost gun kit, there are three primary issues of why ghost guns are dangerous. First and foremost, ghost guns are unserialized, untraceable and unregulated.

With homemade guns being unserialized, there is no way for law enforcement to track their origin or regulate the supply of ghost guns, nor be able to shut down homemade gun sellers. Perhaps most detrimental to society, ghost guns are untraceable.

These three characteristics explain why ghost guns are in demand and appeal to criminals, gangs and even children.

Secondly, once a ghost gun is entirely constructed, it operates like and resembles a traditional firearm.

Lastly, and most ominous, there is no limit on how many ghost guns can be purchased by any individual or group. This rise in popularity makes homemade firearms the quintessential weapon used to commit a crime.

Ghost gun statistics

According to the White House website, “In 2021 there were approximately 20,000 suspected ghost guns reported to ATF as having been recovered by law enforcement in criminal investigations – a ten-fold increase from 2016.”

The increase in sales and those used in crimes directly correlates with an increase in gun violence and homicides across the nation. Another alarming statistic according to NPR in Philadelphia: 571 ghost guns were recovered in 2021. And in Baltimore, police seized 345 in 2021 — compared with 12 seized in 2018.

Aside from the uncovering of thousands of ghost guns in three separate mass shootings, the choice of weapon was a homemade firearm. In 2013, John Zawahri used a self-assembled AR-15 to shoot 100 rounds, killing five people. Kevin Janson Neal used a homemade semi-automatic rifle in a 2017 rampage killing five people and wounding 18.

In 2019, Nathaniel Berhow who was a student at Saugus High School shot five of his classmates, killing two and turning the gun on himself. The ghost gun used in this school shooting was a .45 caliber semi-auto handgun that was a handmade firearm. Due to Berhow being a minor, he could not obtain a gun legally, but the accessibility of a ghost gun made this shooting possible.

Most frightening, the Saugus school shooting lasted only 16 seconds.

These three mass shootings are prime examples of why ghost guns are so dangerous. Neal was a convicted felon, Berhow was a teenager and Zawahri was initially rejected to obtain a firearm by the California Department of Justice in 2011. However, homemade firearms became the viable option for these individuals to commit heinous acts of gun violence.

The future of ghost guns

The future of laws regarding ghost guns and their potential dangers is uncertain but what is certain is they are a growing dilemma across the nation and policymakers should make pivotal changes to curtail their accessibility. A few actions that can be taken to impede the risk and circulation of these weapons is to have a minimum age requirement. In addition, each ghost gun kit sold should have a serial number or code that can trace the seller and buyer and all purchases should be reported to the ATF.

Implementing an age requirement and requiring buyers to show a photo ID and a second form of identification authenticates their age. Requiring serial numbers allows the gun to be traceable to the buyer. All records of purchases should be reported to the ATF to have a record of the buyer, kit, and seller for any instance of the gun being used in a crime or unjustifiably.

All of these proposed reforms are simple changes that can have a direct effect on those seeking to obtain a firearm who are underage or otherwise legally prohibited and is a practical step in reducing gang and gun violence as a whole.

Featured image: Photo by Robin Li on Unsplash

Edited by: James Sutton

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