Recovery of 'ghost guns' used in crimes on the rise

Cindy Bae Image
Thursday, August 25, 2022
Recovery of 'ghost guns' used in crimes on the rise
New York City Mayor Eric Adams announced Thursday that two online "ghost gun" retailers, including one in Lee County, have agreed to stop selling gun components to New York City residents.

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- New York City Mayor Eric Adams announced Thursday that two online ghost gun retailers, including one in North Carolina, have stopped illegally selling and delivering gun components that are used to assemble illegal and untraceable firearms to New York City residents after a lawsuit in June.

The privately made firearms, also known as "ghost guns," typically have no serial numbers and are purchased without background checks.

"Ghost guns are illegal in our city, and we will not allow gun sellers to turn New York City into a city of mail-order murder," Adams said. "These untraceable weapons often end up in the hands of dangerous individuals, who use them to commit vicious and deadly crimes in our communities."

Rock Slide USA, based in the Lee County town of Broadway, is one of five online ghost gun retailers involved in the lawsuit. While the suit continues against the three other defendants, Rock Slide USA and Rainier Arms LLC, in Washington, agreed to stop selling parts and kits to New York City residents, among other things.

Rock Slide USA declined to comment, but the store sells products including slides, barrels, magazines and more parts.

Although it is legal to build a firearm at home, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) said law enforcement is finding more of these privately made firearms (PMFs) at crime scenes.

"Indeed, the number of suspected PMFs recovered by law enforcement and subsequently traced by ATF increased 1,000% between 2016 and 2021," ATF said in May 2022.

Last year, more than 19,000 PMFs were recovered, which is nearly triple the amount of PMFs that were recovered in 2019.

"This exponential rise is likely attributable to both an increase in the number of PMFs recovered by law enforcement as well as developing law enforcement awareness for identifying and tracing recovered PMFs," ATF said.

Out of the 45,000 PMFs recovered from 2016-2021, nearly 700 were linked to homicide investigations. But without the ability to trace a firearm with no serial number or identifying markings, it's difficult, almost impossible, to tell where this firearm was made and who might be the legal possessor, according to ATF's Corey Ray.

"When we can trace, we can discover the history of the firearm, where the purchase was made and the initial purchaser," Ray said. "Information from a trace can help link area crimes and help determine who the trigger puller might be."

In North Carolina, law enforcement is seeing a similar pattern with the number of recoveries in the state increasing by around 700% in 2021 with more than 400 ghost guns recovered.

Raleigh Police said as of July 2022, RPD has confiscated three ghost guns but the use and tracking of them are still in their infancy, according to spokesperson Stacy Smith.

The battle in the state against ghost guns includes Attorney General Josh Stein, who called for a rule that would help ensure buyers pass background checks before purchasing such kits.

"With gun violence on the rise, we must do everything in our power to keep our communities safe," Stein said. "That includes closing this loophole that gives people who are a threat to public safety, such as violent felons and domestic abusers, the ability to get untraceable guns without a background check. This action is critical and long overdue."