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Authorities are increasingly concerned about the availability of so-called “ghost guns” and the ease with which criminals can get them.
The guns are legal, and getting them does not require a background check. The unfinished firearms come in a kit that can be ordered online and shipped to the buyer, who just has to put it together. Once assembled, the weapons are legal but have no serial numbers and can’t be traced.
“So someone who is prohibited (from buying a gun) and couldn’t pass a background check in Maryland can purchase them from out of state and bring them here for nefarious purposes,” said Jen Pauliukonis, president of Marylanders to Prevent Gun Violence.
The 11 News I-Team asked the organization about the so-called ghost guns.
“It’s a loophole in the law that allows these kits to happen because there is no background check and we don’t know who is purchasing them. There is no registry for them,” Pauliukonis said.
Baltimore police responded last July to a situation involving a man armed with a ghost gun, an AR-15-style rifle loaded with armor-piercing bullets. The man fired the gun at four officers who were investigating sounds of gunfire on Winchester Street. Two officers fired back, and the man was killed. Police described the man as a violent repeat offender.
“It’s really a dangerous loophole in the law, but the overwhelming majority of gun violence is not done with these ghost guns, (even though) it sounds scary and is something that could increase,” Pauliukonis said.
Baltimore police said they asked the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives for assistance to identify where the AR-15-style rifle came from and who owned it. The gun is still in the possession of city police.
According to police, much of the gun violence involves weapons with serial numbers that have been stolen or bought through straw purchases or underground sales.
According to the ATF, there are no federal restrictions on people who make their own firearms although they must follow the National Firearms Act and the Gun Control Act. They can’t be in the business of manufacturing or selling, and the guns must be for their personal use only.
Marylanders to Prevent Gun Violence said there are plenty of loopholes, and the focus must remain on reducing those numbers.
“We don’t know how many guns there are or how few. What we do know is there are over 30,000 gun deaths a year in this country. What we do know is there are about 11,000 gun homicides,” Pauliukonis said.
The ATF said it has no figures on how many ghost guns local police agencies have recovered.
WEBVTT ERAL HILLTONIGHT.BARRY.BARRY THE GUNS ARE LEGAL BUT: GETTING THEM DOES NOT REQUIREA BACKGROUND CHECK AND THEYCAN’T BE TRACED.THEY COME IN A KIT CAN BEORDERED ON LINE AN UNFINISHEDFIRE ARM THAT’S SHIPPED TO THEBUYER WHO JUST HAS TO PUT ITTOGETHER.ONCE ASSEMBLED THEY ARE LEGAL.BUT HAVE NO SERIAL NUMBERS ANDCAN’T BE TRACED.WE ASKED THE ORGANIZATIONMARYLANDERS