Friday, January 5, 2018

Black markets in guns without serial numbers

The WSJ has the story:

The Rise of Untraceable ‘Ghost Guns’
An emerging black-market gun-making industry lets buyers bypass background checks and gun regulations, authorities say

"The number of these weapons in the U.S. is unknown. Because the guns bear no serial numbers, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is unable to track them. Serial numbers and gun registration play a key role in police and government 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. But the firearms have been seized in criminal investigations in other states, including Arizona, Maryland, New York and Texas.
"“It went from being a niche group of people that were into the gun culture that were the ones making them for themselves,” said Mr. Barlowe. “Now, they’ve become so commonplace we’re buying them from 17-year-old gang-members on the street.”

"The starting point for building a ghost gun is an “unfinished receiver,” a metal or polymer piece that houses the firing mechanism. It can be purchased online without a background check, because the ATF doesn’t classify the part as a firearm.
"“There is a loophole under federal law that allows an individual to make a firearm,” said  Justin Lee, a federal prosecutor in Sacramento who has handled several ghost gun cases. “That loophole only extends to that person. The person breaks the law as soon as they are transferring that firearm.”
"The prevalence of online retailers and YouTube instructional videos has given ghost guns a boost, according to Mr. Barlowe. He said illicit gun dealers can buy parts for an AR-15 style rifle for about $700, put in a few hours of sweat equity, and sell it on the street for $1,000 to $2,000.
"Gun-owners distrustful of registering their firearms with the government also are customers. “Unserialized, Unregistered” is the slogan for, which sells handgun kits, unfinished receivers, and other items. Kyle Martin, president of Ghost America LLC, which runs the site, said customers “want to enjoy their complete freedom as American citizens.”

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