The Washington Post begins a recent article with the story of an 18-year-old drug dealer with mental health issues named Zachary Burkard, who shot two unarmed 17-year-olds with a “ghost gun” he built from a kit bought online.
The father of one of those 17-year-olds thinks “They’ve just made it entirely too easy to get these guns… A child can buy one. There’s no background checks. You don’t even need a bank account. You can go to 7-Eleven and get a debit card, put money on it and buy a gun.”
The families of the two teens, with the help of the anti-gun-violence group Everytown for Gun Safety, are now suing the distributor of the parts Burkard used to make his ghost gun, 80P Builder of Florida, and the manufacturer, Polymer80 of Nevada, for gross negligence in providing a teenager with a weapon when he was not legally able to buy a handgun from a federally licensed dealer. The case, those who track the weapons say, demonstrates a frightening phenomenon… Teenagers have discovered the ease with which they can acquire the parts for a ghost gun, and they have been buying, building and shooting the homemade guns with alarming frequency. Everytown for Gun Safety compiled a list of more than 50 incidents involving teens and ghost guns since 2019. Among them:
– In Brooklyn Park, Minn., police arrested two teens with ghost guns in December after authorities said one of them attempted to shoot someone outside their car but instead killed their friend inside it.
– In New Rochelle, N.Y., a 16-year-old created a “ghost gun factory” in his bedroom last year, police said, before killing another 16-year-old…
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) estimated that Polymer80 was responsible for more than 88 percent of the ghost guns recovered by police between 2017 and 2021, though there are nearly 100 manufacturers selling parts, or full kits, which can be made into unserialized guns, a list compiled by Everytown shows. Teens are hardly the only users. Last year, police departments seized at least 25,785 ghost guns nationwide, the Justice Department said recently, and those are just the weapons submitted by police to ATF for tracing, even though they don’t have serial numbers and largely cannot be traced. In 2021, the number of guns recovered was 19,344, meaning seizures rose 33 percent the following year.
ATF has linked ghost guns to 692 homicides and nonfatal shootings through 2021, including mass killings and school shootings…
[This May] in Baltimore, authorities arrested three 14-year-olds after armed robberies and an armed carjacking. Police said one of them had a ghost gun. And in Valdosta, Ga., authorities said, a 16-year-old bought a ghost gun kit online in 2021 and assembled her own Glock-style pistol. One day while some friends were at her house, the teen accidentally shot a 14-year-old in the head, leaving him partially paralyzed, with severe brain damage and permanent physical and cognitive issues, his family’s lawyer Melvin Hewitt said.
While some states have passed regulations, last year America’s national firearm-regulating agency also declared parts of ghost guns to be firearms, according to the article, in an attempt to close a commonly-cited loophole. The parts makers challenged the new rule in court, lost twice, then won in a conservative federal court in Texas. The U.S. Justice Department may now appeal that decision to the higher Fifth Circuit court, and if it loses there “could appeal to the Supreme Court.”
Dudley Brown, the president of the National Association for Gun Rights, said he is against all regulation of privately made firearms, calling the practice of building weapons a “long and storied tradition in America.”