California has a “ghost gun” problem, the Los Angeles Field Division of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco Firearms and Explosives (ATF) says. A spokesperson for the ATF field division told The Trace and NBC that 30 percent of recovered firearms are homemade and untraceable.
However, many Second Amendment attorneys, firearm experts, and pro-gun rights advocates think concerns are overblown. Worse than a threat coming from illegally-made guns, they say, the Golden State may have put the lives of its citizens in danger due to restrictions on firearms.
In an interview for a local NBC affiliate, the Los Angeles head of the ATF, Carlos Canino, said the threat of the so-called ghost gun is that anybody can have one.
“If you can put Ikea furniture together you can make a gun at home,” he stated.
To Canino, some criminals just can’t get their hands on illegal guns so they resort to handmade ones. So much so, that the ATF is now confiscating them at “an alarming rate.”
Untraceable “ghost guns” assembled from parts procured online entered the American imagination as the creation of hobbyists. But they now account for nearly a third of guns recovered by ATF agents in California. https://t.co/i7keRn9qGR
— The Trace (@teamtrace) May 21, 2019
“Thirty percent of the firearms that we’re currently holding in our vaults are these unserialized homemade firearms,” he said. “Before you used to see the AR-15 or .223 caliber rifle. Now, you’re starting to see semi-automatic pistols.”
One of the most notorious criminals to have used a ghost gun, the report went on to explain, was a 23-year-old man who didn’t pass a background check after trying to purchase a gun legally. Instead of giving up, he bought a kit online and assembled one himself. Later, he killed two members of his family and three more people at Santa Monica college.
To family members of the victims, the state’s safeguards weren’t there, therefore, their loved ones died. However, if it wasn’t for the state’s gun control rules, the killer many not have assembled a ghost gun in the first place.
Firearms expert and GunGoals owner Wesley Oaks told The Epoch Times that “anyone can create their own firearm with a little research.” The fact that criminals are going for ghost guns doesn’t say anything about the lack of regulation, but more about over-regulation.
“Ghost guns are growing in popularity because of these tougher laws,” he explained, and not because the state hasn’t done enough. As a matter of fact, Oaks wrote on his own website, California is already regulating homemade firearms, as a law passed in 2016 that requires all assembled firearms have a serial number.
On the other hand, Jason Hanson, a former CIA officer and author of “Spy Secrets That Can Save Your Life,” doesn’t think there’s a link between the state’s tough gun laws and the growth of ghost gun popularity. Instead, he told The Epoch Times, he thinks the state is simply lying about this “crisis.”
“I don’t believe ghost guns are in response to the state’s hostile gun rights. What I believe is that there are always going to be criminals and evil people in society and they’re going to find a way to harm people whether it’s with a knife, gun, or a car,” he said.
Senior Fellow at the Independent Institute and Second Amendment attorney Stephen P. Halbrook agrees, adding that any further law trying to regulate homemade guns will backfire.
“Criminals don’t obey the laws against robbery, rape, and murder, and will all the more so disregard laws about types of guns or registration requirements,” he told The Epoch Times. “And the quantities they steal or buy on the black market far outnumber those few who go to the trouble of making the so-called ‘ghost guns.’”
“Only law-abiding people who make their own guns will register them,” he added, and California’s laws actually “prevent such persons from legally possessing ordinary firearms that California bans.”
To safety advocates and firearm instructors such as Marchelle Washington, gun rights are key for self-protection. By working with women in particular, she says on her website, she wants to “empower [them] and make sure that no one else becomes a victim.” But when states make it harder for anyone to have a gun, those who are the most vulnerable are the first ones to be affected.
When it comes to helping law-abiding men and women trying to stay safe in California, Hanson said, voters have little confidence. To him, state legislators just aren’t interested in protecting the Second Amendment.
“Any intelligent person knows we should support and honor the Constitution and the Second Amendment so that citizens can defend themselves from criminals,” he said.