How Untraceable Ghost Guns Are Impacting Crime In The Twin Cities

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BROOKLYN PARK, Minnesota — It’s a sellout of sorts with dealers rushing to sell “ghost weapons” before the feds act next week.

Ghost guns are made without a serial number, which means law enforcement cannot track them down when used in a crime. Now the federal government is taking action.

In the Twin Cities, phantom guns are having an impact on crime.

“Violent crime has been something that has really plagued our community, we’ve seen a huge increase in violent crime, we have unprecedented gun violence,” said Brooklyn Park Police Commander Elliot Faust.

Firearms used in a growing number of crimes in Brooklyn Park, a suburb north of Minneapolis with about 86,000 residents, have not been found.

“We had a shootout last night in a city park. We had a shootout Saturday night where over 40 shots were fired. We recovered a ghost gun in that shootout, we also recovered another gun with a switch and able to fire fully automatically,” Faust said. “We see him almost every night.”

The police commander says what worries him most is the age of people caught with ghost weapons and where they find them.

“I think that’s one of our biggest concerns. It seems like a lot of these guns are falling into the hands of young people… There’s some sort of underground market that sells these guns without serial numbers, and that It doesn’t take much imagination to see how it could be: you can order these guns en masse, ship them to your doorstep, do a little work, create a fully functional gun, and you can sell it to whoever you want,” Faust said.

It’s surprising to law enforcement how quickly these ghost guns have become a problem.

In 2020, two ghost guns were recovered from Brooklyn Park. In 2021, 14 firearms have been recovered, and so far this year 17 ghost weapons have been recovered, Faust said, adding, “And we’re only halfway through the year.”

Brooklyn Park isn’t the only city in Minnesota to see an increase in crimes involving phantom guns. Minneapolis and St. Paul are also picking up more of these untraceable guns, and that’s a problem nationwide as well.

That’s why on August 24, new federal regulations will require companies selling gun kits to have serial numbers on parts and to perform background checks on anyone purchasing those parts.

“So this new law that will come into effect will significantly reduce the way the retail market is and the ease of purchase for those,” Faust said.

Many online businesses are posting countdowns for new regulations and pushing sales.

CBS News is investigating found Bob and Hugh making ghost guns in their California garage. Once assembled, the guns appear identical to those sold in stores, except there is no serial number to trace them if they are used in a crime.

“From 2016 to 2021, nationally, there are about 45,000 suspected ghost weapons, and we can only trace about 0.98% of them, and of those we’ve linked to crime scenes , there are approximately 635 homicides related to these,” the ATF said. Special Agent in Charge Jeffrey Reed.

Another problem: 3D printers.

The St. Paul ATF Deputy Agent in Charge says 3D printed gun parts are flooding the market and they are also nowhere to be found.

“There are people with 3D printers who print the stockings and then order the parts to complete the guns, and then those people, criminally, and whoever was interested, will take those guns and, criminally, will distribute them to banned people like you mentioned, gang members or people involved in violent crimes within our communities,” Reed said.

Federal officials hope these new regulations will help end the use of ghost weapons in violent crimes.

And for those who choose to ignore the new laws.

“We target you, we prosecute people who illegally own guns and do bad things with them,” Faust said.

The ATF works in partnership with state and local law enforcement agencies. Together, they will find Ghost Guns and those who will make them available to people who cannot buy guns legally.

Their efforts will intensify when new laws come into force on Wednesday.

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