Philadelphia officials concerned over "ghost guns"

AP Photo/Matt Rourke

Philadelphia, like many American cities these days, is having a serious problem. The homicide rate is climbing, as are the rates for a number of other violent crimes.

Officials in the City of Brotherly Love are looking at anything they can to restore that whole “brotherly love” thing.

Not that it was more than a nickname before everything went sideways in 2020.

Regardless, Philadelphia has decided they need to blame something or someone, and they’ve made their choice. If you guessed the issue was the dreaded “ghost gun,” give yourself a cookie.

The spike in gun violence during the pandemic has unnerved residents, elected officials and community leaders alike, but the concern is growing over firearms described as ghosts.

“Ghost guns are essentially a firearm that comes in two separate parts with a couple of screws to drill the gun together and you have a firearm in just a few minutes,” Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro told FOX 29.

Shapiro is concerned about the growing threat because ghost guns are untraceable and sold online in kits that do not require a criminal background check to purchase.

For him, the main point of the issue is that people with criminal backgrounds, who cannot own a gun legally, can obtain one this way. Ghost guns do not have serial numbers etched on them that provide the gun’s make, model and history.

Critics argue ghost guns flow in the underground stream of crime guns and vanish when subjected to the tracking and tracing investigators use to combat gun crime.

What those critics fail to note is that the “tracking and tracing investigators use to combat gun crime” is also useless when the gun is stolen as well, and that’s where most criminals get their firearms in the first place.

Funny how that got left out of the article, isn’t it?

However, I will give it credit for at least giving us some numbers.

The Philadelphia Police Department reported recovering 95 ghost guns in 2019 and 250 in 2020. The number more than doubled in 2021, with 571 ghost guns taken off the streets.

However, I can’t help but notice that they left out anything that could be used to provide context for these numbers.

It’s difficult to find any numbers for the total number of guns taken off the streets in any community. Instead, we have to look at them in relation to the number of violent crimes that take place in total.

Like in Philadelphia, where they had 562 homicides in 2021. So more “ghost guns” were taken off the streets than they had murders. That certainly looks like a problem, except it’s still not the whole picture.

They also had 2,332 people shot.

Due to some technical issues, I can’t pull up the Philadephia Police Department’s crime report for 2021 to see the total number of armed robberies, aggravated assaults, and so on, but we can extrapolate that those numbers are going to be much, much higher.

That means the total number of so-called gun crimes easily dwarfs the number of unserialized firearms recovered by police. Significantly.

However, we also don’t know the context of those recoveries. How many of those 571 “ghost guns” were found at crime scenes or on the person of criminals in the process of being arrested for one of those crimes? How many were just found on someone’s person who was accused of no other wrongdoing?

See, this is why I keep harping on context regarding so-called ghost guns. Philadelphia isn’t unique in this fearmongering, to be sure. They’re just the latest to blame something new and scary for the same problems that existed long before the new and scary was even a thing.