Since November, at least four school shootings shared an alarming connection; the suspected shooters used a "ghost gun." That is a firearm that comes packaged in parts, can be bought online and assembled without much of a trace. "When we first heard about these weapons, we thought anyone can get them, even a kid. It's not a hypothetical anymore," Alex McCourt of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Violence Prevention and Policy told ABC News. Experts who have been studying the proliferation of "ghost guns" said the trend is likely to continue beyond the school setting unless policymakers take action.
There are two types of weapons that fall under the ghost gun label. The first is a plastic gun that can be made with a 3D printer and usually fires one bullet. The second version, which he said has been increasingly found at crime scenes, is a do-it-yourself gun assembly kit that includes all the parts of a gun, but without serial numbers or specific components. McCourt said these homemade guns bypass federal laws requiring registration and tracing. Under federal gun laws, the kits are not considered firearms because they are missing specific completed components. A spokeswoman for the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said the number of "privately made firearms" recovered from crime scenes has increased from 1,750 in 2016 to 8,712 in 2020. "Ghost gun" kits are sold online, and all it takes is common house tools to construct in under half an hour, McCourt said. "It's much less complicated than you might think," he said. "If you can put together IKEA furniture, you can assemble these weapons."