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Number of privately-made 'ghost guns' increasing; more linked to crimes in Northeast Ohio, according to ATF

Ghost Guns
Posted at 4:56 PM, Feb 21, 2023

CLEVELAND — The number of suspected ghost guns recovered and traced by the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives more than doubled from 2021 to 2022, according to a recently-released report.

Ghost guns are also known as privately-made firearms, which means the parts were purchased or homemade, and the gun was put together privately by a person. It’s legal as long as a person is allowed to legally own a firearm.

According to the ATF, it becomes a problem when criminals or a person prohibited from owning a gun gets their hands on one, and the ATF said it’s happening more now than ever before.

Privately-made firearms lack serial numbers, making it more difficult for law enforcement to trace them to the owner if they turn up as part of a crime. These types of guns are getting into the hands of criminals and are being used to commit crimes here in Northeast Ohio, according to the ATF.

“They’re going to use them in a crime because they don’t believe that we can find out who supplied these individuals with firearms. Which again, there are different techniques and investigations that we can get there,” said ATF Special Agent Cory Miles.

According to the ATF, the number of ghost guns or privately-made guns it has been requested to trace jumped from 1,629 in 2017 to 19,273 in 2021, and that number is most likely underreported.

“When they get into the wrong hands, yes, that’s what we’re trying to prohibit — also trafficking firearms too. If someone’s out there and they’re buying lots of these firearms and they’re making them themselves and now they’re selling to people without a background check," Miles said.

Up until recently, anyone could purchase a “buy, build, shoot kit” online without a background check. The Department of Justice recently said that kits must be licensed, include a serial number and be purchased from a federally licensed firearms dealer with a background check run prior to the sale, just like with commercially-made firearms.

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