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article imageGangs stockpiling untraceable weapons called 'ghost guns'

By Karen Graham     Jul 7, 2018 in Crime
Los Angeles - The Los Angeles Police Department's Hollywood Station had dozens of firearms spread out on tables this week - all seized in a six-month undercover sting against LA-area gangs.
However, there was one glaring difference with the weapons - They are known as "ghost guns," partly homemade weapons without serial numbers. This makes them untraceable by law enforcement.
The six-month-long operation was a joint effort with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) and the Los Angeles Police Department's Hollywood division. The operation started with a tip to detectives that parts of homemade guns were being sold on the streets and at gun shows and then put together for criminal use.
The 45 weapons seized in the operation included AR-15-style semiautomatic rifles and pistols, as well as fake police ballistic vests. Eventually, law enforcement arrested 10 alleged gang members involved in the manufacture and sale of so-called ghost guns to criminals.
“Criminals are making their own weapons because they cannot buy them legally … or they are paying other people to make those guns for them to get around the gun laws,” said Bill McMullan, special agent in charge of ATF’s L.A. Field Division, reports the Los Angeles Times. “This is a trend among Southern California gangs.”
Partially manufactured weapons
An "unfinished receiver" - also called a "lower receiver" or "80% receiver" can be bought legally - without a serial number - from a seller who is not a federally licensed firearms dealer as long as it is missing the key components that would make it a firearm. This particular piece is what houses the firing mechanism.
All one has to do is drill a few holes in the proper places, add a stock, upper receiver, barrel, and trigger mechanism, and Ta-dah - you have a weapon. The parts might cost around $700, but a complete "ghost gun" can sell for $1,000 to $2,000 on the street.
The whole thing about this latest effort to get around the law is particularly worrisome because those forbidden from purchasing a gun, such as felons and those with documented mental health issues, can still buy the partial lower receiver and then buy the other parts of the weapons off the Internet, say investigators.
This is exactly what John Zawahri did in 2013 when he killed five people in the Santa Monica area using an AR-15-style rifle. He built the weapon himself after buying an unfinished receiver and other parts for the weapon using the Internet, including the magazines of ammunition.
These "ghost weapons" are legal for people allowed to own a firearm but are increasingly showing up at crime scenes. “They are ending up in the hands of some of the most violent gang members,” said LAPD Cmdr. Blake Chow.
“They're manufactured all over Hollywood in the hotels in the community. It was like driving up to fast food restaurant, ordering whatever you wanted, somebody manufacturing it, that person comes to Hollywood, pays the money and they were on their way,” Chow said.
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