Police believe a 15-year-old shot himself with a ghost gun while he was showing it off to friends. Despite the lack of a criminal history, the demand for this firearm equipment has skyrocketed. As the internet grew in popularity, these weapons became more readily available, and crime grew rapidly. Although these devices are not legal, police say they are fueling an epidemic of violence.
Firearms Equipment Is A Big Problem. Many of these kits contain an empty gun. They are untraceable, so they are often used by criminals to hide their identity. A teenager who accidentally shoots himself with one of these ghost guns is unlikely to be caught with an empty firearm. It’s important to note that ghost guns aren’t necessarily illegal, but they are still prohibited under California law.
Ghost Gun is Replica of Real Firearms. Kits can be made to look like any other firearm, and the owner can make their own. There are no rules for this weapon. This ghost gun is manufactured by a dealer who collects $600 worth of parts. Kits can be easily tracked and have a low ballistic value.
This Ghost Weapon Triggers an Epidemic of Violence. The Internet is a growing and competitive market, and it is difficult to compete in this environment. However, this is not to say that the entire world is in danger of being destroyed. In addition, these ghost weapons can be found in the hands of mentally ill or convicted criminals.
New Gun Regulations Treat Ghost Guns As Real Firearms. But the new rules apply to all weapons, including Ghost Guns. They are untraceable, and often do not have a serial number. They also don’t have a physical serial number. These firearms are also not a threat to the public. If you buy a ghost gun kit online, you should consider whether it’s legal in your country.
The proliferation of Ghost Guns has been blamed for the increase in crime. They could not be traced and used in dungeons. They are also a symbol of the digital age. In coastal states, these firearms are prohibited, and law enforcement officials confiscate them. So, ghost weapons are dangerous and deadly tools for illicit purposes.
The emergence of Ghost Weapons and Other Counterfeit Firearms is a symptom of the ongoing epidemic of violence. The problem is not limited to San Diego, but is widespread across the country. There are now Firearms purchased online, which cannot be traced. Besides being legal, they are untraceable and pose no danger to the public.
As violent anger escalates, the appearance of ghost weapons has become a symptom of an underlying problem. Despite the new regulations, people still use ghost weapons. Purchasing ghost weapons, or armor, is a form of homemade weapon that is a blatant manifestation of insurmountable evil. Those responsible for these crimes must be held accountable for their actions.
Nearly 80 percent of all people buy armor online. This ghost gun kit is made of plastic that resembles an actual firearm. A.T.F. Officials say the arms market is fueling an epidemic of violence and selling the product is illegal. They are a form of fraud and should be banned. They can be easily copied.
CHULA VISTA, California — Max Mendoza’s parents woke just after dawn to the sound of gunfire echoing, and ran from their bedroom to find their 12-year-old son leaning on the couch, eyes wide in pain, terrified and shocked.
“This is the original. That’s the real thing,” whispered Max, clutching his chest, looking surprised that a toy-like weapon, a cheap-looking brown-and-black pistol, could end his life in an instant.
But it’s true. Investigators in the city south of San Diego are still trying to pinpoint exactly what happened that Saturday morning in July — whether the seventh grader accidentally shot himself, or whether his 15-year-old friend, who police say had brought the weapons into the apartment, spend it while showing it off.
What is certain is the type of weapon that killed Max. It was a “ghost weapon.”
Ghost weapons—untraceable firearms without serial numbers, assembled from components purchased online—are increasingly becoming lethal weapons with easy access for those legally prohibited from buying or owning weapons across the country. Underground criminals have long relied on stolen guns with filed serial numbers, but ghost guns represent a digital age enhancement, and they’re especially prevalent in blue coast states with strict gun laws.
Nowhere is this more true than in California, where their proliferation has reached epidemic proportions, according to local and federal law enforcement officials in Los Angeles, Oakland, San Diego and San Francisco. Over the past 18 months, officials say, ghost guns accounted for 25 to 50 percent of firearms found at crime scenes. Most of the suspects caught with them are legally prohibited from owning weapons.
“I’ve been in the police force for 30 years next month, and I’ve never seen anything like it,” said Lt. Paul Phillips of the San Diego Police Department, who this year organized the force’s first unit dedicated to homemade firearms. By early October, he said, the department had found nearly 400 ghost weapons, about double the 2020 total with nearly three months left in the year.
Law enforcement officials are not quite sure why its use took off. But they believe it’s essentially a matter of disruptive new technology gradually gaining traction in the market, then skyrocketing as buyers catch on. This is not just happening on the West Coast. Since January 2016, some 25,000 personally-made firearms have been seized by local and federal law enforcement agencies across the country.
Ghost guns, and the specific industry that produces them, has thrived due to loopholes in federal regulations: Parts used to make “personally made firearms” are classified as components, not actual weapons, meaning that online shoppers are not required to undergo background checks or register weapons. That makes them strong magnets for those banned from owning weapons, including convicted criminals, domestic abusers subject to protection orders, the mentally ill and children, such as the teenager who brought his gun into Max Mendoza’s apartment, according to police. .
Closing that gap is the focus of new regulations ordered by President Biden – the most prominent plank of his efforts to combat gun violence, announced after a series of mass shootings this year. The rules would essentially treat ghost guns as traditional firearms — requiring core components to be engraved with serial numbers, imposing background checks and requiring online shoppers to pick up their orders at federally licensed gun shops.
Law enforcement officials in California think the law will do a lot to keep ghost guns out of the hands of criminals and children. “This will definitely put a stop to some of the most obvious problems,” said Los Angeles city attorney Mike Feuer, who is suing a leading arms parts vendor.
But the new rules, which are likely to be challenged in court by gun rights groups, are not expected to be implemented until early next year, after a lengthy public comment process. And gun control groups have raised doubts about the robustness of enforcement by the federal firearms regulator.
What’s more, while the rules will create a series of legal barriers, law enforcement officials say the extralegal pipeline for spare parts will inevitably adapt and evolve. There is ample supply in circulation, enough to supply dealers selling homemade weapons, via social media platforms or the dark web, for years. At the same time, the increasing availability of 3-D printers, which can make plastic and metal parts of guns, has opened a backdoor of new sources of illegal weapons for the gangs and drug dealers who are supposed to steal them.
“This will not go away,” said Master Feuer.
Ghost guns have been used in two recent shootings of police officers in California — the June 2020 killing of two officers in the Bay Area by a far-right extremist, according to prosecutors, and the wounding of two Los Angeles County deputies as they sat down. in their patrol car last September. Other ghost gun shootings appear to be very random, such as the murder of a hotel parking attendant in downtown San Diego last spring by a man, said police, who is already wanted on gun charges.
But the epidemic appears to be disproportionately affecting young people, as buyers, perpetrators and victims. Two years ago, a 16-year-old student walked into Saugus High School, north of Los Angeles, and killed two teenagers with a .45-caliber semi-automatic pistol assembled from a kit before pointing the gun at himself—a case that, more than any other, raised this issue to national attention.
The death of Max Mendoza, by contrast, appeared on local TV news in San Diego over the weekend. His parents, Aida Mendoza and William Tagle, returned home after the news van left and police had searched the apartment for other weapons.
All they found was a broken BB Max gun. He hid it, said Mr. Tagle, because he’s not allowed to bring violent toys into the house.
A Deadly Loophole
The decades-long debate over gun control in Washington revolves around traditional firearms regulation. Ghost weapons raise a more basic question: What makes a gun a weapon?
Each semi-automatic weapon consists of two main parts: a movable upper “slide”, which is located in the barrel of the gun, and a “receiver” or “frame” – the lower part to which almost everything else, including the trigger and magazine, can be attached and made functional after drilling several holes and filling grooves into an unfinished factory production frame.
Under federal law, any frame or receiver deemed 80 percent complete is a functional firearm subject to the same regulations as fully assembled guns. If it’s less than 80 percent complete, it’s not subject to the same federal protections.
Even so, a seasoned amateur can make the minor modifications needed to turn it into a working firearm in less than an hour.
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives assesses each component on a case-by-case basis, using specific, if subjective, technical standards illustrated with annotated photos on the agency’s website. But critics have long accused the agency – hobbled and paralyzed by the gun lobby – of failing to aggressively investigate companies selling equipment with everything needed to quickly assemble ghost weapons.
“I think a lot of us think this is a problem we’ll have to deal with for 10 years, when it’s actually more like two years,” said David Chipman, former A.T.F. the agent who was drawn as Mr Biden’s nominee to head the bureau in September amid fierce opposition from the gun lobby.
“This is the biggest threat in the country right now,” said John Feinblatt, president of Everytown for Gun Safety, a gun control group that has tracked the rapid growth of the gun equipment industry — from 26 online retailers in 2014 to about 80 in the last. year.
The ATF’s acting deputy director, Thomas Chittum, said that while the agency takes the issue seriously, ghost weapons represent a complex regulatory challenge, as “the law does not draw a bright line around the definition of what a firearm is.”
Mr. Chipman has vowed to make the issue a priority, and his failed candidacy has left gun control advocates wondering how eager the agency will be to enforce the new regulations. Indeed, many A.T.F. employees own firearms, and some staff members, who spoke on condition of anonymity, fear the rules could violate the Second Amendment rights of fans, who are not required to register homemade guns unless they intend to sell them.
However, A.T.F. has worked on dozens of ghost weapons with local police departments, and recently cracked down on Polymer80, a Nevada-based industry leader whose weapons made up the majority of ghost weapons found at California crime scenes in 2019.
The company sells a wide variety of components online, including kits for making the AR-15 type semi-automatic rifle. But A.T.F. focuses on one of the most popular: the $590 “Buy, Build and Shoot” kit that contains almost everything needed to build a functional Glock-style pistol.
Last December, A.T.F. raided the company’s headquarters near Reno, citing the company’s failure to submit kits for regulatory approval. The request for a search warrant includes a statement from an informant who assembled one of the company’s equipment within 21 minutes.
Polymer80’s attorneys and company representatives did not respond to inquiries. At the time of the raid, a representative said the business complied with federal law.
The raid has yet to result in an indictment. But the company has stopped selling the kits, which is the main goal of the action, according to two federal officials familiar with the case.
Crimes and Pastimes
Steven R. Ely, a 69-year-old retired high school teacher, never really heard of ghost weapons until he was nearly killed by them.
A little after 10pm. on April 24, he turned a corner in San Diego’s bustling Gaslamp Quarter, heard four or five loud claps and felt something clink against his right side, like grains of gravel.
Mr Ely shoved a hand into his shirt, convinced, for a moment, to find there was no blood. Then he looked again and saw a small patch of spreading red. His knees gave out. He would spend weeks in the hospital, losing 40 pounds and many bright beliefs that he would enjoy an active retirement, on a surfboard, into his 80s or 90s.
“I never saw the person who shot me,” said Mr. Ely. He had just retired, enjoying an extraordinary life, he said, “and this happened.”
Ely was among the victims of the massacre that began, investigators said, when a man named Travis Sarreshteh, 32, walked up to the hotel parking attendant, Justice Boldin, and, without warning, shot him with a Polymer80 pistol. Mr Boldin, 28, a former college baseball player, died almost instantly.
Then Mr Sarreshteh, who pleaded not guilty after being charged with murder, met a group of friends from New Jersey. He pushed and shot, wounding two people, police said. A third person, Vincent Gazzani, was injured in the arm, lung, spleen and stomach. Mr. Ely probably got hit by that shot.
“I was sure I was going to die – I couldn’t breathe,” said Gazzani, who was rescued by a former Israeli Army medic who applied a field dressing from a napkin, reassuring him he “would make that” while waiting for paramedics to arrive.
What to Know About ‘Ghost Guns’
Deadly and untraceable. Earlier this year, President Biden announced a series of initial steps to tackle gun violence, including a significant crackdown on “ghost guns”. Here’s what to know about weapons:
How hard are they to get together? Sales promotions often promise buyers little work. Kits usually come with instructions on how to complete the gun or a link to a YouTube tutorial. Usually, the only tool needed is a drill.
Why are they a problem now? Equipment for assembling weapons has been on sale since the 1990s, but ghost weapons are becoming increasingly accessible to those who are legally prohibited from buying or owning weapons.
How common are they? There was no way of knowing how many ghost weapons were in circulation. But its prevalence appears to be increasing, especially in states with strict gun laws, such as California and New York.
Police are still unsure how Sarreshteh got his hands on the weapon, a recurring theme in nearly all ghost weapons investigations. But obtaining a ghost gun, they said, allowed him to avoid background checks that would have revealed a significant criminal history, including a 2017 illegal gun charge.
The shooting barely caused any ripples nationwide. But it galvanizes officials in San Diego.
“How is it possible for someone who is prohibited from buying firearms legally to get a 9-millimeter gun and shoot five people in the middle of the road?” said Marni von Wilpert, a San Diego city councilor pushing for a law banning guns without serial numbers, part of a wave of local legislation tackling the crisis.
Community leaders in some violence-plagued urban neighborhoods have sounded the alarm in recent years, as youths take up homemade weapons for protection, or as a symbol of resilience.
“People are no longer buying ordinary guns,” said Antoine Towers, who works for the anti-violence program in Oakland. “Almost all young people use ghosts.”
Brian Muhammad, who works with at-risk youth in Stockton, said he recently asked a group of teenagers where they got their guns. “Are you driving to Vegas?” he asked, referring to Nevada’s looser gun laws. They looked at him like he was crazy.
“Who would do that?” one of them answered. “You ordered it in pieces using your phone.”
In Oakland, a 17-year-old boy recently decided to arm himself after an altercation with a gun-wielding friend. He unceremoniously described the process of assembling a ghost weapon, munching on potato chips during an interview in his living room.
For weeks, the boy, whose name is withheld at the request of his family, scoured the website and raised about $750 in part from online retailers and private sellers. After some trial and error (one part didn’t fit the bottom of the gun), he built a working Glock clone using the instructional video.
He said he’s also had mentorship from some friends – who have made guns “a great way to pass the time when you’re stuck at home” during the pandemic.
A Flooded Market
Earlier last year, Bryan Muehlberger, who lives north of Los Angeles, wanted to prove how easy it is for minors to buy gun gear online.
He ordered it using the name of his teenage daughter, Gracie, ticking the box indicating he was a legitimate buyer. The company (whom she doesn’t want to identify because it has her family’s personal information) processed the order without bothering to make sure that Gracie was over 21, as required by state law.
“I got a box in the mail, and it says ‘Gracie Muehlberger’ on the label,” he said in an interview, pausing to calm himself. “I was astonished.”
Gracie Muehlberger is dead. He was killed by a ghost gun, at the age of 15, along with 14-year-old Dominic Blackwell, in the Saugus High School shooting.
Biden administration officials believe the new ghost gun regulations will end sales of similar equipment, at least legally.
Two of the country’s most influential gun rights groups, the National Rifle Association and the National Shooting Sports Foundation, have sharply criticized the law, but have not campaigned much against it. Larry Keane, an N.S.S.F. the official, said he had “important concerns” that the regulation would hinder “legitimate business activities,” and would not rule out future legal action.
However, Justice Department attorneys are more concerned that hardliners will challenge the rules in federal court, arguing that only Congress, not the ATF, has the right to change the definition of a firearm.
In recent months, the Firearms Policy Coalition, a California-based nonprofit that opposes most gun laws, sued to block ghost gun laws in several states, including Delaware, arguing that the regulations violate America’s Second Amendment rights. to “privately manufacture” weapons. for “home defense.”
Most law enforcement officers interviewed for this article were only vaguely aware of this regulatory change. Demand for ghost weapons will remain high because acquiring weapons online, even illegally, is less risky than stealing them, they said.
Lt. Derrick J. Lew of the San Francisco Police Department believes criminals will turn to more shady supply lines, given the growing popularity of 3-D printing.
The market is becoming so competitive, he adds, that countertop vendors are starting to offer extras like silencers and devices to make guns fire faster. Money-back guarantees are also becoming more common.
San Diego police began uncovering a larger operation, often linked to drug trafficking. “You start to see people producing on a much larger scale – 20, 30 guns at a time,” said a sergeant in the weapons unit, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he worked undercover.
Profit is the main driver. The dealer buys parts for $600, puts them together, then sells the gun for $1,400. Customers are happy to pay dearly for untraceable weapons, he said.
The ghost weapon has spectral anonymity, giving investigators little ballistic value. But there is one thing that sets them apart.
Although the bullets found on the body and walls were unremarkable, detectives had noticed a distinctive feature in the casing: The marks left by the firing pins of ghost guns were rougher than the traces made by standard ones.
They look a bit like police badges.