Ghost Guns | Courtesy of the Department of Justice
Ghost Guns | Courtesy of the Department of Justice

Originally published on Medium

On February 8, 2020, a Long Island, NY dentist was arrested at his home which doubles as a dentist’s office after he was found storing a cache of ‘ghost guns. Paul Carey was initially taken into custody after brandishing a loaded shotgun near his secretary. Upon the initial arrest and subsequent search of his home, police found 20 illegal rifles, 18 of which were ‘ghost guns,’ 60 high-capacity magazines, and 3,000 rounds of ammunition.

A ‘ghost gun’ is a firearm that can be assembled by the user from components bought online or using homemade parts. Because of this, the weapons lack serial numbers making them unregulated and can be modified into fully automatic weapons. These weapons are often sold as ‘ghost gun kits,’ which include all the parts and the equipment needed to build them at home.

When building a gun, the frames or receivers contain the parts that operate a firearm. These parts are regulated under federal law. But when a frame or receiver is unfinished by even a small fraction, they are unregulated. Buying a kit includes all of the necessary components to make an unfinished frame or receiver into a fully functioning gun. Completed weapons look, feel, and act just like traditional firearms — whether a handgun or an assault weapon.

17-Year-Old Demonstrates Need for Ghost Gun Regulations by Purchasing a Ghost Gun Kit

On February 13, 2022, a New York City Firefighter was arrested on felony charges for entering the city in possession of ‘ghost gun’ parts. Aaron Martin attended the “Oaks Extravaganza” gun show in Philadelphia where he was seen by a surveillance team purchasing a semi-automatic 12-gauge assault shotgun, two high-capacity magazines, and two Polymer80 firearm receivers that can be used to make ghost guns. He was followed and was arrested as he entered the city.

January 9, 2022, a Rhode Island man is arrested for selling ‘ghost guns’ and trafficking them to the Dominican Republic. Robert Alcantra was arrested for allegedly selling or trying to sell more than 100 guns he produced at his home. According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Alcantra bought ‘ghost gun kits’, put them together at a workshop in his home, then transported them to the Dominican Republic via Miami where he was able to sell them for thousands of dollars.

On February 3, 2020, five people in Los Angeles, CA, were arrested in a ‘ghost gun’ sting operation. The five men were charged with various charges including multiple counts of firearms-related charges and drug charges. According to the indictment, one of the men was in possession of a handgun that was converted from semi-automatic to a fully automatic with a device often referred to as a “Glock switch”.

What a Glock switch does (can be used on any semi-automatic pistol)

While ‘ghost guns’ continue to become a bigger problem, gun theft has been a major issue on its own. In Houston, Texas alone, more than 2,000 guns are stolen from vehicles each year. Those weapons end up on the streets and often in the wrong hands. In 2017, ABC13 News in Houston asked every convicted killer from Harris County who used a gun to murder someone how they acquired their weapons. The majority said they used stolen guns.

Gun Rights Advocates

Gun control debates often typically revolve around banning ‘assault weapons’ and expanding background checks. As a gun owner, I’m not a supporter of banning any weapons that aren’t banned already. I’ve made the argument that it’s too late to ban guns. Gun rights advocates, or ‘Second Amendment people as Donald Trump refers to them, always seemingly muddy the waters about sensible gun control laws.

One of their favorite arguments starts with “why should responsible gun owners suffer” the consequences of new legislation. I argue that people who allow access to their guns, whether children in the home or criminals on the street stealing them from cars, are not responsible owners of firearms. They are irresponsible and contribute to violent gun deaths more than actual responsible gun owners like myself.

Gun theft is arguably the biggest conduit to flooding the streets with illegal firearms. Second only to gun shows and the industry built on private sales. Selling a gun privately allows gun sellers and buyers to circumvent background checks. Many violent criminals and homegrown terrorists purchase their guns in this manner. It’s a commonly used tactic to keep the government from tracking them and their activities.

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution

Another commonly used method is the straw purchase. That’s when someone who’s legally allowed to buy a firearm does so then gifts it to someone who isn’t allowed to own a gun. It’s what we witnessed with the Oxford High School shooter in Michigan who used a gun his parents bought him to kill four students and wound many others.

While ‘Second Amendment people’ suck the air out of the room when these conversations come up, we cannot allow them to detract away from safety measures. Expanded background checks, proper training to own a firearm, and requiring the proper security of weapons would greatly reduce the number of guns on the street. If federal authorities could spend less time dealing with irresponsible gun owners, private sellers, and ghost gun makers, they would be able to focus their attention on more pressing issues.

The reality is, in the United States, so-called responsible gun owners are participating in the creation of violent crime on the street.

Violent Crime in the U.S.

As we know, access to guns is the leading driver of school shootings second only to the lack of resources and mental health assistance available to students. While bullying in schools has always been a problem, school shootings are a relatively new phenomenon. This correlation with the increase in the number of guns in people’s homes isn’t causation on its own. There are other factors at play. Irresponsible gun owners not securing their weapons are the biggest.

There are many people who argue that there are no gun accidents, only negligence. I am one of those. Not securing firearms is akin to not putting your car in park when getting out and letting it roll down a hill killing people. Gun rights advocates would then argue that it wasn’t the driver’s fault because they weren’t in the car when it happened. Sounds stupid, right? Well, it is.

Ghost Gun | Courtesy of the Department of Justice

When a child grabs a gun from their parent’s room and shoots themselves, the laws in most states don’t hold the parent accountable. When a gun owner leaves their gun laying around in their car and it’s later used in a murder, that owner bears no responsibility. Similarly, when common criminals buy guns at gun shows and use them in violent crimes, the arms dealer faces no criminality either.

“As a gun owner, I support background checks along with requiring training, education about the law, gun insurance, and gun safety — including securing weapons when not in use and more.” 

Arturo Dominguez in It’s Too Late: Banning Guns Won’t Stop Domestic Terrorism

Desperate times have always led to desperate measures. Particularly among the poor and downtrodden. Many times, guns are stolen along with other items and later sold so someone can feed their family or pay their bills. The COVID outbreak created such an environment leading to a spike in domestic violence against women and children, increased shoplifting for needed essentials, and yes, violent crime in every major city in the U.S.

Another important note is that guns aren’t being smuggled into the United States. In fact, the opposite is true. U.S. citizens smuggle more guns into Mexico than almost any other country using straw purchases and private sales. There are enough guns floating around because of irresponsible gun owners that there is no market for smuggling guns into the country. None.

Ghost Guns | Courtesy of the Department of Justice

So, what then do responsible gun owners say about ‘ghost guns’ that are becoming a staple in street violence across the country? As shown in the above video, they are being promoted and manufactured right here in the U.S. by federally licensed firearms dealers. By referring to the modifications as a ‘giggle switch,’ they are minimizing the impact of such a modification.

A weapon designed to cause mass casualties in a split second isn’t something to giggle about. Yes, fully automatic weapons are fun to shoot. I’ve had the pleasure of shooting several at the gun range. But I like to shoot for fun. Improving accuracy, challenging others using targets, and having fun with it is truly a joy. It’s a favorite pastime of ours. So is drag racing. But I don’t street race because I’m not an idiot who puts innocent people at risk.

In other words, there’s a time and place for everything.

The Well-Regulated Right to Bear Arms

Your “well regulated” right to “keep and bear arms” wouldn’t be infringed by simple and sensible regulation to stem violent crime and extremism in the U.S. To suggest that any of your rights would be taken away is a case study in calculated willful ignorance perpetrated but groups such as the National Rifle Association (NRA). Organizations such as the NRA don’t represent you and are only interested in lining their pockets.

The NRA has become an organization of extremism.

There are police officers all over the country who have experienced at least one incident with a ‘ghost gun’ and I would bet that most (if not all) have come across stolen guns. If you’re a ‘Second Amendment person’ that also screams “Blue Lives Matter!” in the face of people who back the Movement for Black Lives, I would think you’d want to protect cops, your neighbors, your coworkers, and your school-aged children.

As it stands now, I remain convinced that culture wars over guns aren’t about anything but self-interest based on a belief in the propaganda designed to create animus and fear of people who don’t look like you. That’s what Trump does. The NRA does it too. The Republican embrace of extremism has the same impacts. If you’ve been duped by any of it, my hope is that you begin listening to and learning from those they convince you to hate.

Otherwise, this isn’t the land of the free.

Arturo Dominguez

Arturo Dominguez

Arturo is an anti-racist political nerd. He is an upcoming author, journalist, advocate for social justice, and a married father of three. He is a top writer on Medium and a regular contributor to several news media outlets. He writes educational and informative material about systemic racism, white supremacy, and racial injustice.
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