Parts of the U.S. are being inundated with ghost guns – untraceable “do it yourself” firearms that have unfinished gun parts that aren’t technically considered firearms, so they don’t require serial numbers. The first independent effort to track the rise of these weapons by contacting over 50 local law enforcement agencies about recoveries of unserialized firearms over the past five years comes from VICE News. In April, the Department of Justice released its own data, reporting over 45,000 “privately made firearms” (PMFs) recovered since 2016, including 692 guns linked to murder or attempted homicide investigations. The data show ghost gun recoveries spiking by more than ninety percent last year and 1,000 percent over the last five years.
A number of high-profile cases have involved assailants wielding ghost guns. In early March, a California man gunned down his three young daughters before turning his ghost gun on himself. The bullets that killed a 16-year-old girl in the Bronx last month and wounded two other teens were fired from a ghost gun. Only 11 states and Washington, D.C. have laws regulating or requiring registration of ghost guns. Baltimore sued one of the largest “ghost gun” manufacturers, seeking unspecified damages for its alleged role in “flooding” the city with illegal weapons and for the “injuries and trauma” those guns have caused, reports the Washington Post. The lawsuit, filed in the city’s Circuit Court against Nevada-based Polymer80 and Hanover Armory, a gun store, represents the city’s efforts to use every tool available to address a deepening public health crisis, Baltimore Mayor Brandon M. Scott said.