Biden administration works to regulate ‘ghost guns’ as incidents involving them rise around the tri-state
They’re untraceable weapons - manufactured without a serial number - and available for purchase online. Law enforcement agencies tell Kane In Your Corner that “ghost guns” pose a growing threat, and the Biden administration is trying to better regulate them. But some pro-gun groups are pushing back.
Ghost gun-related incidents are on the rise in the tri-state. Angellyh Yambo, 16, was shot and killed with a ghost gun outside her high school in April. Police say a 17-year-old from New Rochelle, New York, was shot to death with a ghost gun in January. And after a drive-by shooting in Stratford, Connecticut, was caught on camera last year, police recovered a loaded ghost gun with an extended magazine.
Law enforcement agencies say ghost guns pose a problem because the lack of a serial number makes it difficult to trace the weapon.
“If a regular firearm is recovered, one that has a serial number on it, we can often trace that serial number to find out where the gun was made and when it entered into the market,” says Thomas Greco, a special agent with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives. “Due to the lack of a serial number on a privately made firearm, that's very difficult.”
In New Jersey, there were 48 ghost gun incidents in 2019. By 2021, the ATF number had increased to 215, a rise of nearly 350%. The NYPD says it recovered 47 ghost guns citywide in 2019. Last year, they recovered 375, an increase of just under 700%.
Authorities say ghost guns can easily be obtained, often with no background check. Kane In Your Corner found ghost gun kits for sale on various websites, along with instructions on how to assemble them. In the tri-state, the kits are illegal, but authorities say they often come into the area anyway from nearby states like Pennsylvania, where they can be purchased legally.
“It's unbelievable that you can take a weapon that can create destruction, that can literally take a life, and just order it without any sort of accountability,” says New Jersey state Sen. Joe Cryan (D- Union), the author of his state’s ghost gun ban.
The Biden administration is attempting to crack down on ghost guns with a new regulation - requiring the kits to have serial numbers. The rule announced in April is scheduled to take effect in August, but gun rights groups are planning to challenge it in court.
Aidan Johnston, of the group Gun Owners of America, says the Biden administration’s rule not only violates gun owners’ rights, but it also won’t reduce crime. “As far as a criminal is concerned, it is far easier for them to steal a firearm and to obliterate the serial number than it is for them to manufacture a functioning firearm at home,” he says.
But Greco says assembling a ghost gun from a kit is much easier than many might think. He walked Kane In Your Corner through part of the process, showing how the kits come with jigs, which act as templates, showing buyers exactly where to drill holes. He says in 30 minutes or less, a buyer with little to no previous experience can assemble a fully functional firearm.