(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

News

The rise in the prevalence of ghost guns

Ghost guns are becoming common in not only California, but across the country.
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December 31, 2021
At age 15, Gracie Muehlberger died in the Saugus High School shooting. She was killed by a ghost gun — an untraceable firearm without a serial number, assembled from parts purchased online. 

Last year, her father, Bryan Muehlberger, decided to test just how easy it is for a minor to purchase a gun kit off the internet. Using Gracie’s name, Muehlberger ordered a weapon with a few clicks of his computer mouse. Without being asked for proof that Gracie was over the legal buying age, Muehlberger received the kit in the mail not long after. 

Ghost guns are especially prevalent in states with strict firearm regulations, such as California, according to the New York Times. Between 25 to 50% of guns recovered at crime scenes in the last 18 months were of this untraceable variety.

“This is the biggest threat in the country right now,” John Feinblatt, president of Everytown for Gun Safety, told the New York Times. 

By federal law, firearms are considered functional if they are 80% complete. This means that unfinished guns can be purchased without regulations such as background checks and serial numbers.

However, experienced individuals are able to turn components into complete guns in under an hour, according to the New York Times. This explains why ghost guns are becoming increasingly prevalent among individuals who are legally banned from firearm ownership, including teenagers. 

“People aren’t buying regular guns anymore,” Antoine Towers, an employee of an Oakland-based anti-violence program, told the New York Times. “Almost all the youngsters are using ghosts.”

To combat the ghost gun epidemic, President Biden and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms want to tighten regulations. They seek to classify these weapons as traditional firearms, which would mandate serial numbers and background checks for the purchasing of ghost guns. Individuals would also be required to pick up online orders from shops with federal licenses, according to the New York Times.

However, gun rights groups are likely to challenge these proposed standards. As a result, regulations are not likely to go into effect until early 2022. Also troubling is the large number of firearm components already in circulation, which could supply dealers for years, according to the New York Times.

In addition, 3-D printers, which are growing increasingly easy to access, are able to produce weapon parts at extremely high rates. As a result, legislators and civilians alike will be forced to face the increasing relevance of ghost guns in the coming years.

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