RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Homemade firearms, known as ghost guns, don’t have a serial number and can’t be traced. These guns are becoming a bigger problem for law enforcement agencies across North Carolina.
According to the ATF, more than 500 ghost guns have been recovered in the state so far this year.
It is legal for those allowed to own a gun to build a ghost gun for personal use. That’s not who Fuquay-Varina Police Chief Brandon Medina is concerned about.
“My greatest concern is these getting into the hands of people that are performing criminal activity in our community,” Medina said.
His department seized nine ghost guns total- two in 2021, four in 2022, and three so far this year. The department’s seized 34 guns that have serial numbers this year.
Most of those ghost guns were cases where an individual was carrying a concealed weapon. One of the guns was seized from a minor.
Medina said officers want to make sure the individual in possession of the gun is allowed to have it.
“When we run the serial number, in most cases, we can determine if it’s been reported stolen or not,” Medina said. “That is our primary concern. That’s why we urge the public if they have firearms to record their serial numbers, save their bill of sale so they can record it.”
According to numbers from ATF, ghost gun recoveries in North Carolina more than doubled between 2021 and 2022, going from 437 recoveries to 990.
In 2022, Raleigh Police seized 57 ghost guns and Durham Police seized 50 ghost guns, according to ATF.
“When you can trace a firearm that gives law enforcement critical information at the onset of the investigation, to be able to do that,” Ray said. “To find firearms with these identifying markings, that’s helpful. Ghost guns, they don’t have those markings. They’re almost impossible to trace and that makes the job harder from the very beginning.”
Ray believes the uptick in ghost gun recoveries is due to better reporting by law enforcement, but also because the guns are simple to acquire.
“The components that make up these firearms they’re easier to acquire,” Ray said. “You can find them online, you can find them through social media sales. They’re actually easier to make at home, 3D printing has made these components fairly easy.”
Medina said the guns his department seized were all made by the same manufacturer and were a top and a bottom part sold separately, not something that was made from a 3D printer.
Ray said privately made guns can be sold, but that dealer is required to add a serial number.