Under Fire: Ghost guns on the rise
With a few clicks of the keyboard and a credit card, an untraceable 80 percent built gun could be yours. It's known as a ghost gun.
Not-quite-finished guns are sold all over the internet -- including websites like ghostguns.com. That's a problem, says J. Adam Skaggs with The Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.
“Right now, somebody who would go to a gun store and try to buy a gun and fail a background check can just go online and with the click of a mouse, can make themselves a handgun or assault rifle,” Skaggs said.
Because the ghost gun comes 80 percent built, the buyer has to do some gunsmithing. That's on the internet too. YouTube videos tell you exactly how to complete the gun.
“That’s where the danger lies," Skaggs said. "The fact that anybody, a criminal can go online and even though the law says they're not allowed, they can have these parts and build the gun themselves. That's a giant loophole."
It’s a loophole that some lawmakers across the country are trying to close.
Bills have been introduced in Connecticut and New Jersey to ban ghost guns and The Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence has been instrumental in convincing website providers to shut down ghost gun websites.
“Google is the host of the website. We sent a letter to Google saying we believe this is a dangerous and illegal company,” Skaggs said.
But gun advocates like Jonathan Southwick say: Why punish everybody?
“If a law-abiding citizen that's allowed to own a gun is being punished by a criminal, that's not right,” Southwick said.
Firearms instructor Chris Salyer agrees. He also said most criminals won't take the time to build a gun.
“Your average, everyday criminal is not going to take the time to do that, for a quote on quote ghost gun, when they can go over to someone's car or house and steal theirs and it's not traced back to them,” Salyer said. “That's a lot easier than going out spending the money on the lower, making sure everything works right."
The Detroit office of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives declined to comment on this story, saying ghost guns aren't a problem in Michigan.
Back in February, however, a Grand Traverse County man reported two of his homemade AR15's stolen.
“We think these guns should be subject to the same kind of regulation that ordinary guns are,” Skaggs said.
Salyer said ghost guns are the ones used in crimes.
“If you look at the people who are committing these crimes and how they are obtaining these firearms, the vast majority are not that way,” Salyer said.
Skaggs said it still doesn't make sense.
“We don't think it makes sense for these companies to be selling guns with no background checks that would apply to the same gun if you bought it at a store,” Skaggs. said.
The I-Team checked with law enforcement across West Michigan who told us they haven’t come across any ghost guns. Currently, there is no legislation pending in Michigan to regulate ghost guns.