No, we shouldn't all be outraged over "ghost guns"

(AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File)

It’s always amusing when people tell you the kinds of things that should outrage you when they don’t even bother to understand your arguments on literally anything.


Take the issue of so-called ghost guns.

Now, for me, the issue really boils down to a couple of things. The first is that the issue is largely overstated. Even when these weapons turn up at crime scenes, the assumption is that the crime wouldn’t have happened at all if we restricted these weapons. That is a hell of a leap considering how these guns aren’t really showing up all that often when you look at total numbers.

But, you see, an op-ed at the Washington Post thinks we should be upset.

Starting with a headline that reads, “The firearm issue that should be uniting us in outrage: ghost guns,” the author makes it clear where she thinks we should stand, but it gets better.

If you’ve been paying attention to the harm that has been caused by ghost guns — those firearms that can be bought online in parts and come without serial numbers — then you know they have destroyed many lives. They have been used in deadly shootings across the nation, and even when people have survived shootings, they have experienced losses of other kinds. Bullets fired from those guns have landed young people in hospital beds for excruciating stays and sent teenagers to prison with long sentences.

What happened to DeAndre Thomas shows that. Thomas was 15 when he was shot at his Montgomery County high school by a 17-year-old classmate who was later sentenced to 18 years for attempted first-degree murder. For that sentencing, Thomas’ mother, Karen Thomas, spoke in court about how she watched her son fight for his life in a hospital for more than 50 days and how she responded when he asked about his condition.

If there is one firearm issue that should unite us in outrage, it is ghost guns. Those weapons benefit no one except for the companies that produce those parts and profit from them, knowing they are ending up in the hands of people who wouldn’t be eligible to get firearms from a licensed dealer, including teenagers.

A Washington Post article that ran online Wednesday revealed how easy it is for teenagers to buy the parts for ghost guns online, assemble them on their own and use them to harm others. The article, written by my colleagues Tom Jackman and Emily Davies, showed through detailed data and heartbreaking cases the disturbing scope of the issue.


And really, let’s look at some of those numbers, shall we?

After all, she brought them up.

For one thing, she cites the claim that police have seized over 25,000 “ghost guns.” Over what span? Damned if I know.

What I do know is that even if that’s in one calendar year, it remains to be seen how big of an issue that actually is. After all, in just a single year, Philadelphia alone seized nearly 6,000 firearms in 2021 and Chicago seized another 12,000.

That’s just two cities, and while some of those were likely “ghost guns,” the harsh reality is that most of them weren’t.

Another number she brings up is that so-called ghost guns were used in 692 homicides through 2021.

I know that number and know that it’s not from just a single year, but accumulated across a number of years.

Now, let’s think about the premise that these guns are ending up in teenagers’ hands. However, in 2021, nearly 2,500 people under the age of 20 were arrested for homicide. Since “teenagers” often includes lawful adults in anti-gun arguments, I find no flaw in lumping 18- and 19-year-olds in for the sake of argument myself.

Now, if you argue that the “ghost gun” murders were over a decade, and all were used by so-called teens, then it means the argument accounts for less than 100 homicides per year.

So no, I don’t see all that many reasons to be outraged over “ghost guns” when no firearm is the problem in the first place.

The problem here is that there are teenagers who think violence is the answer to whatever their problems are. They shoot and kill rivals. They take up armed robbery as a hobby and potential career choice. They do all kinds of things well beyond what we might have even considered in our own youth.


Frankly, that’s what outrages me, especially when I know that teenagers are getting traditionally-manufactured firearms by an order of magnitude more often than “ghost guns” despite all the gun control rules currently in place meant to prevent just that from happening.

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