ATLANTA — They have no serial number, require no background check and frequently can be procured with no questions asked.
We’re talking about so-called ghost guns, which are weapons assembled at home that slip under the radar.
On Monday, President Joe Biden said that situation is about to change. He announced a new federal rule that says manufacturers of 3D printed guns have to include serial numbers.
The new rule requires that kits to make homemade guns be treated like other guns made and sold in the U.S.
The kits will need to have serial numbers, and a person buying one would need to pass a background check.
The rule goes into effect in four months, according to the Department of Justice.
[HAVE SOMETHING YOU WANT 2 INVESTIGATES TO LOOK INTO? Submit your stories ideas here]
Channel 2 Action News first told you about these guns in 2018, when we found many online businesses which sell all the parts needed for an unfinished rifle.
“What these companies are doing is trying to exploit a kind of technical loophole in federal law,” said Adam Skaggs with the Giffords Law Center to Reduce Gun Violence.
Channel 2 Action News ordered one of the kits, which cost around $500. It came by U.S. mail, neatly packed and ready to assemble.
We followed the instructions for hollowing out the trigger pocket of the rifle. The trigger picket holds the key parts of the gun, including the firing mechanism.
In less than two days, our AR-15 was ready for the range. And it is completely legal.
“We seize hundreds of these, and the number’s been going up every year,” said Graham Barlow with the Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Bureau.
Police say a rising number of criminals are making ghost guns, selling them and using them in violent attacks across the country.
“We have found ghost guns or firearms made from unfinished receivers used in some horrific crimes,” Barlow told Channel 2′s Tom Regan.
Authorities say Kevin Neal used an AR-15 he built himself in a shooting rampage that killed five people.
Though his criminal history forbade him from owning a gun, he ordered the assault rifle kit online — no background checks, no questions asked.
MORE STORIES FROM 2 INVESTIGATES:
- ‘I was treated like a terrorist’: woman describes nightmare trip after booking flight on Priceline
- Atlanta woman says bank held her money hostage after getting small business loan
- Man says USPS lost Pokémon card worth $13,000. He’s not alone when it comes to lost packages
- NCAA relaxes marijuana rules for college athletes
“We see this trend becoming more popular and we do see an increase in the number of people selling these,” Barlow said.
It is illegal to sell homemade guns, but making them is completely within the law.
Skaggs represents the Gabby Giffords Law Center to Reduce Gun Violence. Giffords, a former congresswoman, was gravely wounded in a mass shooting that killed six people in 2011.
Skaggs told Regan that these ghost guns represent a menacing loophole in the law.
“These sites make it as easy as clicking a mouse for these dangerous people to get a hold of assault weapons,” Skaggs said.
His organization has called on web-hosting companies to take down sites that sell ghost guns.
Jerry Henry of the gun rights group GeorgiaCarry.org is opposed to any restrictions on unassembled guns.
“I don’t think it’s a loophole in the law. The thing of it is, any criminal who wants a gun is going to get a gun. He’s going to steal it. He’s going to buy it off the streets,” Henry said.
He says the vast majority of people who purchase them are hobbyists.
“Most people who are interested in collecting and doing these kinds of things are not the ones going out and committing crimes,” Henry said.
According to the White House, nearly 20,000 potential ghost guns were reported to the ATF as part of criminal investigations.
In response to the Biden administration’s new rule Monday, the National Rifle Association said:
“An administration that’s truly sincere and resolute about curbing violent crime rates would do one thing: take violent criminals off the streets immediately.
“Yet, the Biden administration allows these criminals who kill and maim with callous and reckless abandon, again and again, to roam the streets of Baltimore, Philadelphia, Chicago, New York, San Francisco and other cities large and small across our country without fear of prosecution and punishment.
“Americans know the lenient bail system and the revolving door justice system supported and perpetrated by the Biden administration and other leaders who support soft-on-criminal policies are the problem.
“However, today, the president unveils yet another hollow plan that will not stop this violence.
“His gun control actions will undoubtedly hearten his wealthy gun control supporters. But, this action sends the wrong message to violent criminals, because this ‘ban’ will not affect them. These violent crime sprees will continue unabated until they are arrested, prosecuted and punished.”
©2022 Cox Media Group