America's Problem of Ghost Guns (opinion)

3D printed GunWikimedia Commons

Nowadays there’s a DIY version of every appliance and tool- we never thought a dangerously accessible DIY version of guns could also exist. Ghost guns have become the new terror for American police, especially as gun violence is rising. America has a gun problem, and it is being made infinitely worse through ghost guns.

The biggest danger of ghost guns is that they are unserialized. As a result, there is no way to track who owns a ghost gun. In America, which already has a gun problem, having untraceable firearms is turning out to be disastrous.

To top it off, ghost guns can be bought online. They are sold in “ghost gun kits”, with a guide on how to assemble the various parts in the kit. These parts, separately, don’t require any license to own. These kits are openly sold on gun shows and can be bought by anyone, from abusers to gun traffickers and prohibited purchasers.

After you buy the kit online, you just have to assemble the gun- various tutorials exist online, unregulated. The frame needed to put together the parts is usually licensed, but since it’s partially unfinished, it’s not regulated per se. This loophole has been wreaking havoc for years.

David Chipman, who has worked for 25 years in the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) said:

“Building a gun in your home has always been lawful, but it wasn’t a big issue because being a gunsmith requires some serious skills and equipment. The people who did it were mostly hobbyists, who had a lot of time on their hands. As a result, such homemade weapons seldom showed up in crimes.”

That is quickly changing.

Also, ghost gun kits are relatively cheap- your average American can easily afford them. There is no law dictating how many ghost guns you can buy- your next-door neighbor could easily be hoarding tens of firearms without any authority being aware of it. They are also intentionally marketed as unregulated arsenals; if you wonder why this can go unchecked, NRA (National Rifle Association)’s lobbying has a lot to do with it.

Be Warned

Gun violence has skyrocketed in America over the past decade- in 2020 alone, there were 600 mass shootings, resulting in an irreparable loss of life. Compared to 2019’s 417 mass shootings, 2020 saw a steady increase. This should not be a shock for most Americans; they aren’t a stranger to such news popping up on their televisions almost every other day.

We often forget that ghost guns played a vital part in this steady increase in gun shootings. But, if we look closely enough, we can also find increased reporting of such incidents on the news.

In August 2019, California Highway Police apprehended known felon Aaron Luther. Otherwise, rightfully restricted by law to own a gun, he fired at the police and shot almost 100 rounds of bullets before finally being killed. Not surprisingly, Aaron had used ghost guns- the only way weapons were openly accessible to him.

Ghost guns have been repeatedly used in mass shootings- in California alone, the Saugus (2019), Tehama County (2017), and Santa Monica (2013) shooters used them. The hard-hitting reality is that these shootings could have been avoided if ghost guns didn’t exist. The Tehama and Santa Monica shooters were legally prohibited from purchasing firearms- an exemplary step that would otherwise have worked. The Saugus shooter was a minor- the only guns he could buy were online and required no registration.

Carlos A. Canino, the Special Agent in charge of the ATF Los Angeles Field Division, decisively declared:

“Forty-one percent, so almost half our cases we’re coming across are these ghost guns.”

Los Angeles is not the only city seeing this rise. San Francisco and Oakland police report the same. The San Francisco police department recovered 164 ghost guns in 2020, a shocking and drastic increase given that the number was zero in 2015. Likewise, the number of ghost guns recovered by the Oakland police quadrupled in 2020.

Legislation In The Making

May 2020 saw a welcome change as politicians all across the board raised alarms over the ghost guns. As a result, the Untraceable Firearms Act of 2020 was introduced in the senate. Thankfully, it proposes that unfinished frames and receivers should also be marked with serial numbers. In May 2021, the bill was reintroduced, all efforts amped up to get it passed.

The bill is currently stalled, thanks to NRA’s aggressive lobbying. David Pucino, a lawyer with the Giffords Center to Prevent Gun Violence, still sees hope. He says:

“Basically, it will cut off the supply of ghost guns. There’s still, of course, the existing stock of weapons out there, which the rule is not going to directly affect, but it’ll do the really important work of stopping the supply of these weapons.”

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, who reintroduced the bill in 2021, gave an impassioned speech about the change this bill can have. It can save lives, prevent misery, help make America a safer place. He said:

“There’s nothing ghostly about ‘ghost’ guns — they look like guns, shoot like guns, and kill like guns. Our legislation would ensure that violent extremists, domestic abusers, and foreign terrorists can’t evade background checks and other safety measures by building weapons at home instead of buying them from a store.”

Gun violence in America is a plague, and ghost guns are set to fasten their pace. Unless the legislation is passed in all states, Americans will see more loved ones shot, the police force will see more of its honest, hardworking members die, and every American will be at risk.

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