A legal loophole means that anyone, including criminals, can order a so-called “ghost gun” off the web without a background check – a gun with no serial number that can’t be traced.
The guns are built from kits and arrive in pieces, so under existing law, when they’re shipped, they aren’t guns. When assembled by their buyers, they’re lethal – and legal.
Federal officials like Graham Barlowe, the resident agent in charge of the ATF’s Sacramento office, say the loophole is dangerous.
“People that could not pass a background check,” said Barlowe, “are purchasing these unfinished receiver kits and making firearms because they know that if they went to a gun store, they wouldn’t be able to pass a background check.”
Police say criminals are well aware of the availability of “ghost guns,” and they’ve been used in shootings across the country, from Maryland to California.
Jeff Rossen, NBC News national investigative correspondent, went online to see how easy it would be to order these gun kits. He quickly found dozens of websites offering the product, and ordered a rifle kit, which he had shipped to former ATF agent Rick Vasquez in Virginia.
All the parts needed to assemble a gun were in the box when it arrived. It took Vasquez a couple of hours to assemble the weapon.
“This is now a completed semi-automatic firearm,” said Vasquez, showing it to Rossen. Rossen noted that there was no serial number on the finished product, making it untraceable.
Said Vasquez, “That is correct … You cannot trace this firearm.” He and Rossen then took the weapon to a range and fired it, where in Vasquez’s expert opinion, it “work[ed] great.”
Here’s the thing: former ATF agent Rick Vasquez and Jeff Rossen are boldly and directly lying to the viewers/readers of NBC News. I know this from firsthand experience, as I’ve built semi-automatic firearms from the ground up, including AR-15s and an AKM.
You cannot buy “all the parts” for any firearm online and simply slap the pieces together to build a functioning firearm as they mislead viewers, and this is a very easy claim to debunk.
Every firearm made or imported into the United States has a part of the frame or receiver that the ATF recognizes as the actual firearm that carries the serial number. All the other pieces are just parts. It is these other pieces—barrels, stocks, handguards, sights, triggers, etc—that can be bought online or in retail stores as individual parts or in parts kits, but the receiver must either be purchased as a serialized firearm like a whole gun, or it must be manufactured from an incomplete piece of material into a functional firearm.
The metal part shown about is an unfinished lower receiver for an AR-15 manufactured by 80% Arms. Let me be very clear when I tell you that you cannot simply assemble this into a firearm by slapping other parts onto it.
Someone purchasing an unfinished lower receiver like this must first use machine tools or a CNC machine like the Ghost Gunner II to drill and mill out the fire control group cavity and selector switch holes. If you do not, you simply have a hunk of metal in the outline of a lower receiver that cannot accept a trigger or a hammer or a selector switch, and cannot possibly be fired. This takes time, specialized tools, and knowledge to complete. I know. I’ve put in the time to mill three of them, one of which had to be scrapped because I did it wrong.
Building an AK-style rifle is even more complex than building an AR-15, starting with a piece of sheet metal that must be bent into a shape using specialized tools, and then assembled in a process more akin to blacksmithing than gunsmithing.
I know, because I spent two days in a machine shop with AK master builder Jim Fuller to build the rifle you see above, and that was starting with a finished (and serialized) receiver.
At no point in their “fake news” article does NBC news or the serially dishonest Rossen describe the effort that you must manufacturer the receiver from incomplete pieces of metal to have the core of a firearm. Instead, they all but gloss over that reality, and dishonestly assert that you can buy all the completed parts online and simply assemble a firearm with hardly any effort at all.
If you wonder why the American people no longer trust the mainstream media, you don’t need to look any further than this example. NBC News and Jeff Rossen have once again been dishonest in order to sell fear and sensationalism, creating an imaginary “loophole” in the law that simply doesn’t exist.