ATF Charlotte Field Division safe of illegal firearms including ghost guns


CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) – Ghost guns – falling into the hands of criminals.

More and more, we hear about local law enforcement seizing illegal ghost guns.

At the same time, ATF Charlotte says more and more of these illegal and mostly untraceable firearms are showing up at crime scenes involving young people.

The CMPD has arrested three teenagers who they believe robbed a person at gunpoint early Wednesday morning.

We are told that one of the teenagers had a ghost gun.

Last April, we reported on a shooting at Romare Bearden Park.

Police say an 18-year-old suspect admitted to having a phantom weapon.

They’ve been a problem on the West Coast and are increasingly prevalent on the East Coast, particularly in North Carolina, authorities said.

State, local and federal law enforcement has seized more than 700 illegal firearms that are being held in a safe at the ATF Field Division office in Charlotte, some of which are ghost weapons.

“That’s become the problem because these ghost guns are popping up on the streets of Charlotte,” Anthony Spotswood said.

Spotswood is the assistant special agent in charge of ATF Charlotte’s field division.

Some of the guns can be made with kits found online – assembled by separate parts or created entirely by a 3D printer.

“Because there is no serial number on this plate, this is the first indication that this is a ghost gun,” Spotswood said.

That’s part of why he says it’s so difficult for law enforcement to track down these firearms.

Spotswood said ghost guns often end up in the hands of people who want to commit violent crimes.

“What we’re finding are ghost guns and these kits that come and you can make ghost guns are so readily available that teenagers and young people go online, buy the components for those, and it’s very easy to build so they build them, sometimes in their bedroom,” he said.

Spotswood said that in North Carolina, from 2020 to 2021, local and state law enforcement seized more than 400 ghost weapons, an increase of 700% over that time.

New rules should take effect later this month, which include the requirement to have serial numbers on these guns.

“I don’t just work in this community, but I live in this community, so one of the things that I’m looking forward to is whatever we can eventually use, any technology we can use, any new decisions that we can use, it can help us reduce crime,” Spotswood said.

Spotswood says some small law enforcement agencies may have these ghost guns in their safes and may not know what they are.

To anticipate this issue, he said the ATF is conducting training to help local law enforcement identify these ghost weapons.

Related: Ghost guns in Charlotte and new federal regulations

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