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Ghost guns are not helping the cause

Samantha Durham, Opinion Editor

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Editor’s Note: Samantha Durham is a senior at UNCW studying sociology. She is the Opinion Editor for The Seahawk and enjoys concentrating her work on social issues. All opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. Samantha may be found on Twitter @Durham_Sam. All suggestions and inquiries may be sent via email to 

Gun regulations in the past couple of years have been a hot topic of debate. Advocates in favor of gun control point to mass shootings, crime and various other incidents as reasons to restrict gun ownership and gun rights across the country while those in opposition claim too many restrictions violate an American’s 2nd amendment right.

Both sides of the gun debate present compelling and fair arguments, yet it seems the country has yet to come to an agreement as to what is best in terms of gun ownership. However, it has become quite clear with recent attacks both domestically and abroad: Guns are problematic, but also changing the world. One way we can see changes in the world of firearms is with the rise of “ghost guns”.

To preface, I am familiar with firearms. While I never experienced them being used in an emergency situation, I am aware of their strength and power. I have fired a gun on multiple occasions and, with that experience, I have a respect for those that value their 2nd Amendment right to bear arms. But I also possess an awareness of the danger and destruction guns can cause.

“Ghost guns” are guns that have been created at home through DIY kits or other methods. While learning about this topic, it appeared to me that most of these homemade weapons are rifle-style guns such as AR-15s. However, ghost guns are not limited to just that particular style of weapon.

The major difference between an average gun and ghost gun is the serial numbers. Guns that you purchase in stores have serial numbers that allow them to be traced and registered. Purchasing a gun in a store also leads to background checks and identification. Ghost guns eliminate those factors almost completely, as a ghost gun has no serial number and requires no formal background check.

Many are likely to gasp at this idea, but it is reality and, thus far, completely legal. As long as the weapon is intended for personal use only, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives deems these weapons to be legal, reported The New York Times. It only becomes illegal if an individual begins selling or distributing these guns without a proper license.

Two popular distributors of the equipment needed to make your own weapon include Ghost Gunner and Ghost Guns.

Both companies provide similar goods and services to their consumers. Customers can go online and order a build kit designed for the particular weapon they have in mind. Ghost Guns’ website had tabs for an AR-9, AR-15, Glock, AK-47 and multiple others. Prices for the various kits range depending on what weapon is being assembled.

An important point to remember is that these weapons come completely taken apart. Customers are expected to build them at home. Which made me wonder: Exactly how does someone make an AR-15 or AK-47 without prior knowledge? These kits may come with instructions but it might be difficult to make your own do-it-yourself gun, regardless.

Evidently, it is not as hard as I assumed it might be. I searched on YouTube, “How to build a rifle from scratch” and I was surprised to get 1,420,000 results. I also stumbled upon an article from Wired titled “I made an untraceable AR-15 ‘Ghost Gun’ in my office – and it was easy.”

This proves that the resources are vaster than many of us believed them to be. The parts are available, the knowledge is at our fingertips and realistically speaking no one can stop you from doing it.

Another major key to a ghost gun is a part called an “unfinished receiver” or an 80 percent lower receiver. This is the part of a gun that houses the firing mechanism, which can be purchased without a background check. The background check is not required because the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) does not view this part as a firearm, reported The Wall Street Journal.

These unfinished receivers are typically made of polymer or metal, reported The Wall Street Journal. However, those who have the ability can make these parts themselves. A short Vice film captures a man in California displaying a weapon he made by crafting his own lower receiver from metal.

How did we get to this point? The right to bear arms has been a right throughout American history and while it has put us into sticky situations here and there, it seems like our right as citizens has become a threat to others.

Why do people feel the need to own an unregistered weapon? The company Ghost Guns’ slogan even reads, “Unserialized, unregistered”.

Many claim unregistered weapons protect them from being subject to the government. Others such as the man in the Vice film claim they do it because they can. I have no issue with that statement because we do live in the United States of America where we are allowed to own guns thanks to the 2nd Amendment.

My issue does not stem from the “do it by hand” mentality, but rather the resistance to registering your gun. With power and privilege come responsibilities, therefore if a person cannot uphold those responsibilities then I see no reason for them to have the privilege. The quote, “With great power comes great responsibility” fits this situation almost perfectly.

These ghost guns are not supposed to be sold or distributed but that does not mean they are not. Everyone knows that laws get broken and this is no exception. The Wall Street Journal reported that a man in California “pleaded guilty last year to selling 92 AR-15 style rifles, five handguns and 88 silencers, all without serial numbers for $264,000 over a six-month period.”

It is mentioned in Vice’s film, “How to make a homemade gun” how these weapons are being sold to drug cartels, gang members and convicted criminals who are not supposed to have guns at their disposal.

However, this ability to build guns at home is proving to cause not only criminal issues but also a legislative backlash. States, particularly California, have started creating legislation to combat the purchasing and creation of ghost guns.

Governor Jerry Brown vetoed one bill in 2016 that would have listed unfinished receivers as firearms thus requiring a background check, as reported by The Wall Street Journal.

However, while this bill was vetoed, Gov. Jerry Brown did sign a different bill requiring all residents of California owning an unserialized firearm to apply for one by 2019. This made California one of the first states to enact legislation against ghost guns.

While it seems individual states are taking matters into their own hands, too much damage has already been done because of ghost guns. In Santa Monica, shooter John Zawahri used a ghost gun in an attack that killed five people in 2013. A Northern California man killed five during a shooting with semiautomatic rifles he made at home and in 2016, a man in Baltimore shot at police with a homemade AR-15, reported The Wall Street Journal.

The prevalence of ghost guns goes beyond the borders of The United States. According to The New York Times, homemade firearms are estimated to be about 10 to 20 percent of all illegal weapons seized by police in Australia.

Some may claim that these are isolated incidents and that those who want to hurt others will find a way, regardless of the law. While I cannot disagree with that, I can pose this question: How is going around the system benefiting those in favor of less gun control?

It seems to me that if you are a gun owner in a typical sense (with a serialized weapon) you know the expectations and rules that apply to owning a weapon. One of those would be to have your weapon registered and a background check performed before ownership. Therefore, I am puzzled as to why people would want ghost guns to exist at all.

The existence of ghost guns brings about problems with people abusing their right to make them, thus leading to legislation. It also furthers the argument that guns without regulation lead to nothing but negative consequences. If you want to have few laws regulating your gun ownership, would you not frown upon those attempting to beat the system?

It reminds me a lot of the times in grade school when a few kids would act out and the whole class ended up being punished. I also question why someone really needs an untraceable weapon. To me, that only makes it appear you are doing something you should not be.

Nevertheless, lawmakers are swinging into action to stop ghost guns. Many are not against the DIY method but do oppose the unserialized aspect of the weapons. Personally, I agree. If you want to be a gun owner in the United States, you should follow all the same rules that everyone else in your state has to follow. Just because a loophole exists does not mean it is your duty to exploit it.

My stance is that if you want to own a gun, great. You have a right to own one as a citizen of this country, but with that right comes responsibility. Citizens need to be responsible for their guns and consider all of the regulations and requirements before owning a gun. We cannot get upset when stricter rules are created because certain people cannot follow the rules properly.

Unfortunately, this is the world we live in. That does not mean you cannot enjoy your rights, but it does mean that you have to be understanding of why regulations exist and also mindful of your own piece of the puzzle.


7 Responses to “Ghost guns are not helping the cause”

  1. Dean Weingarten on January 27th, 2018 10:05 am

    Homemade and small shop guns are produced all over the world. In most of the world they are black market guns, and therefore outside of government control. The 10-20% figure for Australia seems correct. Where there are strict limitations on gun ownership, such as in Australia, the number of homemade, black market guns increases.

    The homemade guns in Australia are all made illegally. There is little that can be done when criminals are making their own sub-machine guns from scratch. Such guns are common in Brazil, Israel, Pakistan, and the Philippines. Homemade sub-machine guns are preferred because they may be the easiest repeater to make in small shops or at home.

    Stricter rules have failed to reduce crime in these countries. Gun technology is pretty simple.

    It makes more sense to focus on the human element than on the gun. Guns are inanimate.

    Serial numbers on guns are almost never useful in solving crimes. There is no good purpose for tracing guns; it does not reduce the crime rate.

    The evidence is that if the culture supports the rule of law, and the police, crime rates drop through the floor.

    It is much better to focus on creating a culture where the rule of law and the police are respected.

    The number of guns in a society has no significant relationship to the rate of violent crime.

  2. Jep Poole on January 27th, 2018 11:54 am

    I think you mean well in your article, but I also think that you’re misunderstanding why there is so much push back from the Pro 2nd Amendment side. If governments had not been encroaching upon gun owners’ rights since the NFA of 1934, people would not ant to develop 80% receivers for sale and 3D printing for firearms parts. When gun controllers sought to limit capacity to 10 rounds in handguns, did it have any effect on crime? No. However it did launch a revolution of high capacity compact firearms, which made them even crazier to ban handguns!

    And the ONLY reason for registration is eventual confiscation. Anyone who says different is lying. The goal of registration is confiscation, and this is being proven out in states like CA, CT, NY and MA. Just because something has the potential to be used in a criminal act, doesn’t mean that thing should be criminalized.

  3. Gart Duncan on January 27th, 2018 12:53 pm

    There are only about five states that require any sort of gun registration of the serial number. So, needing a serial number for that supposed requirement doesn’t hold much water.

  4. Barry Hirsh on January 27th, 2018 4:53 pm

    “We cannot get upset when stricter rules are created because certain people cannot follow the rules properly.”


    That statement, yea that very idea, is a non sequitur.

    We certainly can and should get upset when preemptive rules are imposed on the 99% of people who neither need them nor deserve them. Prior Restraint is anathema to our founding principles and our liberty. Laws penalizing abuse of liberty for criminal ends are appropriate. Laws that infringe on otherwise peaceable behavior are not, nor are they constitutional.

  5. David on February 1st, 2018 12:25 pm

    Do u consider your right to vote a priveledge? Or being allowed to practice any religion your little heart desires a priveledge? I assume no, since these are not priveledges, those are constitutional rights. Guess what, so is the right for every adult LAW OBIDING CITIZEN OF THE UNITES STATES TO CARYY AND BEAR ARMS.

  6. William on February 6th, 2018 3:58 pm

    Let’s look at this practically.

    A new law won’t do a bit of good. Regardless of what side of the gun issue one is on, people need to ACCEPT THE FACT that guns are EASY TO MAKE. Quality commercial grade guns can be made by people with moderate shop skills with relatively inexpensive tools and equipment.

    This means that if 80% receivers are outlawed, then people will simply move to using homemade jigs to make lower receivers out of chunk metal or even using a 3-d printer or C.N.C. machine. When I was a kid, I knew a 11 year old boy who made a 12 gauge shotgun with a piece of wood, a piece of scrap metal, a pipe, and a spring. I know that he fired the thing at least 10 times.

    The point is that if a KID can make such a simple gun, then adults can make even better guns with more features. Is it better to pass more restrictive laws and drive more people to the underground to get weapons, or is it better to loosen all the restrictions so that people buy from dealers where serial numbers are recorded so that weapons used in crimes can be traced?

    We see what instant background check and identification requirements have done. They have inconvenienced “law abiding” gun owners while doing very little to keep guns out of the hands of bad people. Even though we have ever restrictive gun legislation barring increasing numbers of people from owning guns, gun violence continues to rise and tracing guns is becoming more difficult. Gun legislation is doing nothing but creating untraceable weapons. When will we learn?

  7. Jack vasko on February 7th, 2018 8:51 am

    Stamping a number on a firearm receiver will not stop a crime. S/N are not useful in solving crimes either. While I understand the desire to “control the weapon population,” it cannot be done by simply requiring homemade guns to have a serial number.

    The reason knowledgeable people support the legality of ghost guns is knowing unknowledgable people, if given the opportunity, will pass regulation after regulation after regulation reaching further and further beyond the ghost guns to regulating every part of a firearm.

    Make no mistake, California has only just begun their war on ghost guns, expect more laws as they chase their impossible dream at great cost to the tax payers and no benefit to the public.

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Ghost guns are not helping the cause