(TFC) – In the era of “fake news”, one would think a network like NBC would be more careful about misleading their viewers and readers. A recent article, complete with a dramatic video, seems to portray an epidemic of untraceable firearms in the hands of criminals across the country. There are scenes of shot up vehicles and almost frantic tones from the announcer reporting the story. It’s fear-mongering at its finest.
The Fifth Column will now lay out the facts and myths surrounding the “ghost gun” talking point. Federal law considers a single part of a weapon to be a “firearm”. The other pieces are simply parts and are uncontrolled. The feds have taken this approach because the screws and springs found in weapons can also be found in vacuum cleaners or lawn mowers. The part that matters under federal law is called the “receiver”. The receiver is simply a hunk of machined metal. In some weapons, it’s a stamped piece of metal. All of the other parts of the weapon use this single piece as a base. Think of the parts like legs on a spider and the receiver like the body. The parts are useless without the receiver, so the item to control is the receiver. To get a clear picture of a receiver, take a look at one for the infamous AK-47. It looks like the bracket for a drawer or shelf. Most Americans have something fitting the shape in their junk drawer or hardware drawer. Should those Americans be charged with possession of a “ghost gun”? Of course not, so the ATF made the determination that the receiver must actually be a receiver, not something that just happens to look like one. It’s honestly one of the few sensible decisions the agency has ever made.
This is a receiver flat for an AK. In NBC’s piece, it’s what would be called an “unfinished receiver”. Take a good look at it. It’s a flat piece of metal with some holes drilled in it. Anybody who has the capability and skill to turn this piece of metal into the finished receiver above has the skill to punch a few holes in a flat piece of metal. The manufacturing process that must occur to create a rifle from the collection of parts available on the internet was barely alluded to in NBC’s article. There was a brief clip of their expert holding a power drill, but that’s about it. Simply put, almost any piece of sheet metal is an “unfinished receiver” for an AK. This is why the ATF can’t regulate it. The cookie sheet in your kitchen could be turned into an AK receiver with a little work. Here’s a step-by-step breakdown of how to make one out of a shovel.
NBC makes the case that “ghost guns” are “untraceable” simply because they lack a serial number. When police find a body, investigators aren’t clamoring to get their hands on the serial number history of the weapon. They want the ballistics report. When a bullet is sent down the barrel, small imperfections leave a pattern in the bullet. When that bullet is recovered from the crime scene and when the police find the weapon involved, they can compare them and get a match. That’s the piece of evidence that matters. This does not change with a rifle built at home. The serial number has nothing to do with the process. A serial number does come in handy when the criminal is dumb enough to have registered the weapon, used it in a crime, and left it behind at the scene. Criminals with the technical expertise to make their own firearms probably aren’t this dumb anyway. So the serial number becomes a moot point. Serial numbers on store bought firearms can be removed or altered. More importantly, there are hundreds of ways to “clean” a legally purchased firearm and move it into the black market. In these cases, the serial number becomes irrelevant; as it does with any stolen firearm.
Most people who purchase kits to build rifles at home are not hardened criminals looking to escape a background check, they’re hobbyists. They’re the same type of people who like to build kit cars. A criminal won’t spend weeks learning how to manufacture a rifle and then hours placing the pieces together. The AR-15 shown in NBC’s videos is made up of about 200 parts. He or she will simply send someone with a clean background in to purchase the weapon and complete a strawman purchase. That weapon will later be reported stolen by the purchaser.
If there is any doubt about the hobbyists, take a look at the prices of the parts kits for AR-15s. They range from $350 to $500, without the receiver. An unfinished receiver is about $80. The cost of brand new professionally manufactured AR-15: $500. Now take a look at the finished products. Perform a Google image search for “home built AR-15”. Different color schemes, bizarre modifications, and unusual accessories. Are some of these weapons used in crimes? Sure. Is it a pandemic sweeping the nation? Of course not. What is it primarily? A way for hobbyists to take their fascination with firearms to the next level.
But even if you don’t believe that, here’s the important part: It is impossible to regulate flat pieces of metal. It is impossible to register every part of a firearm because they are used in other products. Regulating home built firearms is literally impossible. Even without professionally manufactured parts specific to guns, everything a person needs to build a firearm at home is available at Home Depot. Don’t believe me? Here’s a link to all of the plans and schematics necessary for people with absolutely no training to build fully-automatic suppressed firearms with material from the hardware store. Love them or hate them, firearms are one of the items in America’s already open Pandora’s box. They aren’t going away. It’s time to address the cultural issues, rather than focusing on ineffective and worthless expansion of government.