Unregistered, Untraceable Kit Guns Flood the Market; 24,000 Seized
Our nation’s laws on firearms are so outdated that parts for the semiautomatic AR-15s used in mass shootings have as much federal regulation as “a lampshade,” in the words of a former top ATF gun expert.
An Ohio judge cited outdated regulations to dismiss charges in 2019 against two men about parts to make 50 AR-15 style rifles. In California, a judge dismissed charges in 2020 against a man accused of running a factory to make AR-15 style rifles.
“Misapplying the law for a long time provides no immunity from scrutiny,” wrote Ohio Judge James Carr, a Clinton nominee.
Attorney General Merrick Garland wants the ATF to rewrite these laws so manufacturers and dealers of assault rifles and other weapons who are criminally charged can’t walk free because the regulations are obsolete.
If you can put IKEA furniture together, you can make a gun at home.
In 1968, Congress passed the Gun Control Act, signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson, with guns in mind such as the 1911 semi-automatic pistol. Army Sgt. Alvin York used that pistol during World War I to kill six German soldiers charging at him with bayonets. Bank robber John Dillinger used a 1911A1, modified into a machine pistol that could shoot 1,000 rounds a minute.
The 1911 and guns like it use a frame or receiver to which other parts of the gun are attached. The Gun Control Act requires gun makers to stamp that part with a serial number so the guns can be traced. Buyers of the gun parts need to undergo background checks.
But most of the guns made now in our country don’t have a frame or receiver like the one in the 1911 pistol York used. These guns don’t use a hammer to fire the gun. The newer guns, often smaller with few parts, use a firing pin, or striker.
‘Striker Fire’ Technology
Dan O’Kelly, the former ATF agent who has compared federal regulation of these guns to regulating lampshades, has testified for the defense in criminal cases against the manufacturers of some of these guns.
Glock popularized this “striker fire” technology in the 1980s when Glock used it in the company’s entire line of pistols. Sig Sauer, which won the $580 million contract to make guns for the U.S. Army, uses this technology.
Some guns made with this technology are called “ghost guns” because criminals can buy kits to make firearms that can’t be traced because they don’t have serial numbers. The kits usually come with directions or links to a tutorial on YouTube.
“If you can put IKEA furniture together, you can make a gun at home,” said Carlos Canino who used to work for the ATF.
More than 300 Homicides
Almost 24,000 suspected ghost guns were found by police at potential crime scenes from 2016 to 2020, including 325 homicides or attempted homicides.
Bryan Muehlberger’s 15-year-old daughter Gracie Anne, a high school freshman, was killed with a ghost gun in November 2019 at her California school. Another student shot her in the back. The bullet punctured her left lung, and Gracie drowned in her own blood.
“I just remember saying, you know, like, ‘Please, no. Don’t – don’t tell me the bad news, please’,” Muehlberger said.
Muehlberger and Frank Blackwell, whose 14-year-old son Dominic was killed, sued the ATF and Trump’s attorney general, William P. Barr, in 2000 over Team Trump’s failure to regulate ghost guns. The case is on hold to give the Biden administration time to issue a new rule on guns.
The other plaintiffs in the lawsuit are the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence and the state of California.
The proposed rule would make kits to build guns firearms under the Gun Control Act and require manufacturers to be licensed, put serial marks on the weapons and keep records of who buys the kits.
The rule would make guns that don’t have the traditional frame or receiver subject to the Gun Control Act and require existing ghost guns to be marked.
Featured image: 3D-printed semiautomatic AK-47 (ghostrunner.net)