Fire Sale: Dealers rush to sell Ghost Weapon parts before restrictions kick in

CBS Investigates: Dealers Rush To Sell Ghost Weapon Parts


CBS Investigates: Dealers Rush To Sell Ghost Weapon Parts

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There are only days left before new federal rules effectively ban so-called ghost guns on August 24, many companies are scrambling to sell the parts needed to make the largely unobtainable firearms – and gun enthusiasts keep making them.

In April, President Joe Biden announced new regulations which will treat the ghost guns – which can be made from parts purchased online or with 3D printers – like all other firearms sold in the United States

Typical firearms must include a serial number that allows law enforcement to find them if they are used in a crime, but ghost guns do not have a serial number. Additionally, anyone can purchase ghost gun parts online without a background check, allowing criminals to circumvent restrictions designed to prevent them from purchasing a traditional firearm from an authorized dealer.

Online, many websites that sell ghost gun parts have posted countdowns to the rule’s effective date and posted information for enthusiasts who want to continue making ghost guns. house fire.

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Ghost gun parts retailers like 80-lower.com have been publicizing impending changes to ATF regulations on privately made firearms.

The sites include companies like 80-lower.com, which urges visitors to “grab your freedom while you can” and links to product listings of AR-15 receivers. A similar site, 80percentarms.com, promises to continue shipping ghost gun parts until the day the rule takes effect. Representatives for 80-lower.com and 80percentarms.com did not respond to CBS News’ request for comment.

The number of phantom guns in the United States has increased in recent years. Although there is no data on the number of ghost gun parts sold, the number of ghost gun parts sold in recent years has skyrocketed, according to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), which regulates firearms.

In its latest report on the U.S. gun market, the ATF pointed to jumps in Google’s trending data over the past few years, which suggests growing interest in ghost gun parts.

This data shows that key searches related to specific ghost weapon parts have increased by more than 600% over the past decade.

The ATF report also states that ghost guns make it possible “to build a firearm at home without any records or background checks.”
Bob and Hugh are two of the people who do just that. They asked CBS News to only use their first names because they fear backlash.

In their garage in California’s Central Valley, they make functional AR-15 style rifles out of what appear to be gun parts but, under current federal law, they’re just scraps. of metal.

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So-called “80% receivers” will soon be considered firearms and regulated like other firearms once the new ATF rules come into effect.

Once assembled, firearms like those made by Bob and Hugh are essentially identical to those sold in stores, with one key difference: Homemade firearms do not have serial numbers.

Bob and Hugh started putting serial numbers on all the guns they made in 2018 when California started requiring ghost guns to have serial numbers. It is one of the few states to regulate phantom guns.

Rules like those in California will soon expand to all states once new ATF regulations take effect. This does not mean that privately made firearms will be illegal, but rather that ghost guns will have to be serialized, which means they must contain a serial number. The regulations will also require anyone purchasing the coins to submit to a background check.

Bob said he was worried the new rules would deter law-abiding citizens from making guns like him. He also said he fears criminals simply won’t comply, but instead continue to illegally manufacture guns without serial numbers.

“The laws are going to put off a lot of people like me who like to make sure everything is in order,” he said. “They’re going to discourage people from going out and participating in this hobby.”

Activists and federal officials hope these new regulations will help reduce the use of ghost weapons in violent crimes.

David Pucino, deputy chief counsel at Giffords Law Center which advocates for tougher gun control laws, said it was a ‘tight rule’ that will make it harder to build phantom guns by criminals while allowing amateurs like Bob and Hugh to continue doing so. .

“For the end user, if you’re a responsible gun owner who wants to make your own guns, you’ll have no effect — no change, really,” Pucino said. “It’s just going to make it the same process you would have gone through to buy a finished gun. However, if you’re a criminal actor, someone trying to get around those laws, you can’t do that anymore because you can’t get the parts used to make these ghost guns.”

Ghost guns have presented a growing problem for law enforcement in recent years. Almost all ghost weapons recovered from crime scenes — more than 99% — cannot be found at all, according to the ATF. At the same time, the number of ghost guns used in crimes has risen sharply – jumping 1,000% since 2016, although they still account for just 3% of all guns recovered by police.

Charlie Patterson, the special agent in charge of the ATF’s Washington field division, called the trend “very troubling.”

“Right here in [Washington, D.C.]41% of all privately manufactured firearms recovered are linked to another shooting. »

Patterson said he was confident the new rules would make a difference.

“I think any tool law enforcement has to disrupt gun trafficking and prevent lives from being lost to gun violence will make a difference,” he said.

The key to making the new rules truly effective, Pucino said, is “implementation.”

“What we will need is the ATF to be very careful in implementing the rule,” Pucino said. “To make sure that people who sell guns under another name, who sell the parts…that can be used to make guns are regulated as if they were selling guns. And if ATF does that, I think that the rule will be very effective.”

But gun owners and advocates like Bob and Hugh maintain their belief that the new rules are not the way to reduce crime.

“It won’t work,” Hugh said. “Because it’s the same thing. Criminals don’t obey the law.”

For this story, CBS News consulted The Trace, a nonprofit journalism organization that reports on guns. Trace correspondent Alain Stephens examined the ATF’s efforts to reduce the criminal use of ghost weapons in the run-up to the federal rule change. Read the full story here.

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