Before new laws, dealers sell phantom firearms

With just a few days left before new federal regulations formally outlaw so-called ghost guns on August 24, numerous businesses are rushing to sell the components necessary to construct the completely untraceable weapons—and gun aficionados continue to assemble them.

 

President Joe Biden unveiled new restrictions in April that would treat ghost weapons, which may be created using internet or 3D-printed components, the same as other firearms offered for sale in the country.

 

Ghost guns lack serial numbers, but regular weapons are required to have them so that law enforcement can track them down if they are used in a crime.

 

Additionally, there are no limitations on who may purchase ghost gun components online, enabling criminals to get around measures meant to prohibit them from buying a conventional handgun from a registered dealer.

 

Countdowns to the effective date of the regulation have been placed on several websites that sell ghost gun components online, along with information for enthusiasts who wish to keep making guns at home.

 

Websites like 80-lower.com, which exhorts readers to “take your freedom while you can,” are among them. The website also provides links to product listings for AR-15 receivers.

 

80percentarms.com, a related website, guarantees that it will keep delivering ghost gun components up to the day the regulation takes effect.

 

The 80-lower.com and 80percentarms.com representatives did not reply to a request for comment from CBS News.

In recent years, there have been more ghost weapons in the United States.

 

Although there is no information on how many ghost gun parts are sold, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Weapons and Explosives (ATF), which oversees firearms, reports a sharp increase in the amount of ghost gun components found at crime scenes in recent years.

 

The ATF noted increases in Google trends data in recent years that show rising interest in ghost gun components in its most recent report on the U.S. gun industry.

 

According to the statistics, over the last ten years, key searches for certain ghost gun components have increased by more than 600%.

According to the ATF investigation, ghost weapons enable “the home production of a firearm without any records or a background check.”

80-lower.png Ghost gun part retailers like 80-lower.com have advertised on the impending changes to ATF regulations of privately made firearms.

Two of those carrying out the action are Bob and Hugh. Because they are worried about retaliation, they requested CBS News to just use their first names.

 

They construct working AR-15-style weapons in their garage in the Central Valley of California using components that look like gun parts but are really simply bits of metal under existing federal regulations.

 

The only significant distinction between privately created handguns and those purchased from retailers after they have been assembled is that privately made firearms lack serial numbers.

When California mandated that ghost weapons have serial numbers in 2018, Bob and Hugh began adding serial numbers to every firearm they produced. It’s one of very few states that even regulates ghost weapons.

 

Once the new ATF laws are in place, all states will soon be subject to restrictions similar to those in California.

 

Privately made weapons won’t necessarily be prohibited as a result; rather, ghost guns will need to be serialised, which means they must have a serial number.

 

The rules also mandate that anybody purchasing the components must consent to a background investigation.

 

Bob expressed his worry that the new regulations will discourage law-abiding persons from manufacturing firearms as he does. He said that he worries that criminals just won’t comply and instead would keep producing illegally made, unserialized firearms.

 

The restrictions would deter many individuals like myself who prefer to ensure that everything is legal, he said. They’re going to discourage others from engaging in this activity by going out and doing it.

Federal authorities and activists are hoping that these new rules would reduce the use of ghost weapons in violent crimes.

It’s “a robust regulation,” according to David Pucino, the Deputy Chief Counsel at the Giffords Law Center, which supports tighter gun control legislation, and will make it more difficult for criminals to construct ghost weapons while enabling enthusiasts like Bob and Hugh to continue doing so.

“For the end user, you’re not going to have any effect — no change, really, if you’re a responsible gun owner who wants to make your own weapons,” Pucino said.

“It will simply make the procedure identical to that required to purchase a finished firearm. However, if you’re a criminal actor trying to break the law, you won’t be able to do so any longer because you won’t be able to source the components used to make these ghost weapons.”

In recent years, law enforcement has increasingly struggled with the issue of ghost guns. According to the ATF, more than 99% of ghost firearms found at crime scenes cannot be traced at all.

 

The number of ghost firearms used in crimes has also increased significantly, increasing 1,000% since 2016, even though they still only account for 3% of all the weapons that have been found by authorities.

The ATF’s Washington Field Division’s Special Agent in Charge, Charlie Patterson, described the pattern as “extremely disturbing.”

41% of all found privately built guns in [Washington, D.C.] had a connection to another incident.

Patterson expressed his confidence that the new regulations would have an impact.

 

According to him, every instrument law enforcement has to stop the trafficking of weapons and save one life from gun violence would be beneficial.

“Implementation” is crucial for the new regulations to be genuinely successful, according to Pucino.

 

What we’re going to require, according to Pucino, is for ATF to be very cautious while enforcing the law. “To ensure that those who sell components that may be used to construct firearms or conceal weapons are subject to the same regulations as those who sell actual weapons. And I believe the regulation will be highly successful if ATF follows through on it.”

However, proponents of gun rights and gun owners like Bob and Hugh continue to hold to the view that the new laws are ineffective in lowering crime.

It won’t work, Hugh said. “Considering that it is the same. Criminals disregard the law.”

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