NJ police chief overstates threat of "ghost guns"

NJ police chief overstates threat of "ghost guns"
(AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File)

The term “ghost gun” is one of those that makes many gun people roll their eyes. We recognize it as a term meant to terrify others, kind of like “assault rifle” and “Saturday night specials.”

Further, the more numbers we learn about these kinds of firearms, the less reason I can see for concern. They’re a small fraction of the overall issue.

But for the police chief in Camden County, New Jersey, they’re a terrible plague upon the land.

The numbers keep growing, Camden County Commissioner Lou Cappelli noted Tuesday: In 2020, police in the city seized 300 guns; in 2021, that number was 332; and so far in 2022, police have seized 322 guns, with two months still left to go.

Cappelli also noted another potentially alarming increase.

In 2019, Camden County police seized 7 so-called “ghost guns,” guns that are purchased in pieces as kits, and which have no serial numbers. In 2020, the number of ghost guns seized in Camden grew to 32 and nearly doubled to 61 in 2021.

This year, that number is already 45 and law enforcement officials fear that number will end up even higher as ghost guns surge in popularity, something Camden County Police Department Chief Gabe Rodriguez believes puts officers, and the public, at greater risk.

Oh, wow. A whole 45 “ghost guns” so far this year.

Now, I will say, as a percentage of total guns, this is undoubtedly the highest one we’ve seen.

However, the problem here is the definition of “ghost gun.”

You see, the term simply means a firearm that can’t be traced because it doesn’t have a readable serial number. While that generally includes guns made from kits or 3D printed, it also often includes more traditionally manufactured guns as well, only those with the serial numbers destroyed.

Those are fairly common in criminal circles, after all, and they can artificially drive up the number of so-called ghost guns because of that.

I suspect that most of those firearms are, in fact, traditionally manufactured guns that criminals obliterated the serial numbers on.

While the chief claims that these represent a serious threat to his officers and the general public, though, we must remember and even remind him that they’re still just a small fraction of the guns in criminal hands. Further, bad guys have had a way to get guns for decades despite all the laws–including laws in states like New Jersey–meant to keep firearms out of their hands.

As such, unserialized firearms don’t represent any new or additional threat to officers or citizens. The issue is with the criminals themselves, not whatever weapon they arm themselves with.

Rather than trying to demonize hobbyists, law enforcement and lawmakers would do well to keep that in mind and instead focus on those who represent a real problem to our society. The criminal will be with us always, but they should never be an excuse to infringe upon the rights of the law-abiding, particularly when those kinds of laws don’t produce the results proponents claim they produce.

They never have and never will.