Washington, D.C. Manuel Yambo had never heard of a ghost gun until his 16-year-old daughter was murdered. He heard the news every parent dreads to hear when he was getting ready to go to work at home.
His daughter Angeliha was shot near the school. Before he reached the hospital, he received another phone call and told him that Angeliha had died. But he didn’t believe until he saw his daughter’s body.
Just a few months before the incident, Angeliha had celebrated her 16th birthday in which she danced with her father in a pink gown and crown. Remembering her daughter, father Yambo says, “Angeliha was very cheerful, like me.”
Officials informed him that Angeliha died when a 17-year-old youth shot with a ‘ghost gun’. A ‘ghost gun’ is a homemade gun, which is not registered with the relevant authorities and cannot be traced.
Anyone who has access to the internet in the US can buy the parts needed to make these ‘ghost guns’ without any hassle. Similarly, with the help of tutorials available online, a fully functioning gun can be made in less than an hour by connecting those parts.
Yambu told the BBC, “I was surprised to know how easily such a gun can be obtained. It can be easily ordered online like any normal toy.
Experts have identified ghost guns as a rapidly growing gun safety problem in the United States. Since 2017, the number of ‘ghost guns’ recovered from the scene by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobago, Firearms and Explosives ATF has increased by 1,000 percent.
For the first time in 2018, 17 “ghost guns” were recovered in New York City, where Yambo lives. This number increased to 50 in 2019 and reached 150 in 2020. Similarly, 275 “ghost guns” were recovered from New York City in 2021.
The Washington-based National Integrated Ballistic Information Network evaluates ballistic evidence from across the country and matches it with evidence obtained from crime scenes. But in the case of ‘ghost guns’, since there is no serial number on the gun frame, it is almost impossible to know where such guns are and to find out about the dealers who are illegally selling guns to minors.
ATF officer Jerome McClinton says, ‘Anyone can get a gun that works like the one we carry and buy the parts and make a gun yourself.’
Last August, the Biden administration implemented a new rule and placed the main parts used to make ‘ghost guns’ in the list of traditional weapons, and made it compulsory to keep serial numbers on such items. Such parts include commonly sold packaged kits of ‘ghost guns’ which can be easily assembled to make a gun or make a frame or receiver.
According to Attorney General Merrick Garland, this rule will make it harder for criminals and other prohibited persons to obtain untraceable weapons. In addition, he said, it would facilitate the collection of information needed by the law enforcement officers to solve crimes and also reduce the number of such hidden weapons that are spreading in the community.
More than a dozen states in America have banned “ghost guns”. But David Puccino, chief counsel at the gun control advocacy group Giffords Law Center, says the government’s latest rule is not enough. According to him, this rule does not cover all the items used to make a ‘ghost gun’, including the unfinished frame and receiver. Also, due to the lack of a national framework, gun smugglers can easily move from states where ‘ghost guns’ are open to states where ‘ghost guns’ are banned.
Last October, a group of senators asked the ATF to report on law enforcement. But expressing concern before the Congress, ATF said that the court can stop it if it is strict on this matter. According to the ATF, the various orders of the Supreme Court on the matter of the Second Amendment have discouraged strictness on gun owners.
“Ghost guns” are becoming an international problem not only in America but also in countries with strict restrictions on weapons. Some have been smuggled from America to other countries. The parts of ‘Ghost Gun’ are exported to Mexico, which has increased the concern that drug criminals may abuse them there. Similarly, guns are being made using 3D printers in Western Europe.
ATF has warned that America’s ‘ghost gun’ trend may spread to other countries as well. Charlie Patterson, Special Agent in Charge of ATF, says that since “ghost guns” are not a matter of interest for any country, there is a risk that they may become a big problem in the future.
With the increasing expansion of ‘ghost guns’, strict surveillance has increased on various manufacturers in America. Last year in 2022, the New York Attorney General’s Office prosecuted several online sellers for illegally selling non-serial frames and receivers. Last January, the court ruled in the case and ordered the effective removal of “ghost guns” from all markets in the statewas given
On the other hand, America’s largest “ghost gun” manufacturing company, Polymar, is being criticized by 80 MPs.
The company was also fined $400,000 in Washington DC for selling illegal firearms to customers and violating consumer protection laws by falsely claiming that their firearms were legal.
However, Laurent Kelly, the co-founder of Polymar 80, a company that manufactures “Ghost Guns”, claims that the interest raised about “Ghost Guns” is a myth and a divisive non-issue. He said that the company will appeal the decision against him in the court of Washington DC. A court in Nevada, where the company is headquartered, ruled in favor of the company and dismissed the ban on ghost guns in various parts of the state as unconstitutional.
According to Kelly, the proportion of “ghost guns” recovered by law enforcement agencies is very low. He says that in 2021, the ATF seized a total of 460,24 guns in the United States, and a total of 19,273 ghost guns were seized.
Saying that he sympathizes with the family of Angelih, who was shot and killed by a “ghost gun,” Kelly said that he is against any government laws that would curtail the right to bear arms guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the US Constitution.
He also dismissed the statistics that guns are the leading cause of death for American children and teenagers. He says, ‘People need to differentiate between violence and guns in their minds.’
But the victims say gun manufacturers are to blame. Angelih’s father, Yambo, is setting up a foundation to help those affected by gun violence, saying that the makers of ‘ghost guns’ are to blame for his daughter’s death.
He asks, ‘Who were those guns made for?’ Why is it being sold for parts so that the Ministry of Law and ATF cannot find it?