Gun violence

‘Ghost Guns' at Heart of Debate Over President's Actions to Curb Gun Violence

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Pres. Joe Biden’s efforts to curb gun violence include rulings on so-called ghost guns, which are unassembled weapons sold as kits that don't have serial numbers or require a background check for purchase.

Ghost guns can be made using kits purchased online. NBC 7 found kits available ranging in price from $80 - $170.

“Anyone from a criminal to a terrorist can buy this kit and in as little as 30-minutes put together a weapon," Biden said on Thursday. "I want to see these kits treated as firearms under the Gun Control Act."

The president's actions will require parts to have serial numbers, and buyers would have to undergo background checks.

In recent years, the use of ghost guns in criminal activity has become a cause for concern among law enforcement in San Diego County.

In 2019, NBC 7 Investigates reported that four local agencies -- the San Diego, Escondido, Oceanside and La Mesa police departments -- were tracking ghost guns that were confiscated at crime scenes.

At the time, SDPD reported confiscating five such weapons in 2017. That number soared to 52 the next year

The presidents actions have drawn predictable, divided reaction from gun-rights advocates and anti-gun violence activists.

“We know that 91% of the country wants background checks to thwart gun violence,” said Rose Ann Sharp, the founder of Never Again, CA.

Never Again, CA, was behind an effort to ban the sales of guns and ammunition at gun shows, including the annual event held at the Del Mar Fairgrounds. The group supports legislative efforts to prohibit sales of ghost guns at the shows.

“We are absolutely thrilled that he is taking on the challenge of the ghost guns," Sharp said. "This is not a hobby for people. When you can assemble a ghost gun in 15-minutes, that is not a hobby. It is for another reason."

But Michael Schwartz, the executive director of the gun-rights advocacy group San Diego County Gun Owners, said the rules penalize legal, law-abiding gun owners.

“I’m just not sure how it’s going to prevent or stop violent crime to have serial numbers," Schwartz said. "If somebody steals a gun -- and that’s typically where criminals get firearms, is they steal them -- and they trace it back to an owner, that doesn’t necessarily mean that that owner is the criminal."

Schwartz and Sharp differ on how easy it is to actually build a ghost gun from an online kit.

“The kits are not simply just parts that you assemble," Schwartz said. 'You actually have to machine them, so it does take a certain amount of effort and a certain amount of skill. It’s not something I can do, and I work in the industry."

Sharp disagreed.

“I can do it," Sharp said. "I’ve got the kit. We bought one. It does take 15 minutes, and my grandson could probably do it in five. Everything is there that you need now."

Meanwhile, the two differ on how the public will react to the president's efforts to curb gun violence.

“I think as this proposal rolls out and people are educated about what it will take to stop gun violence, they will support the president's initiatives,” Sharp said.

“The tone he took when he spoke about gun owners, it was like he was marginalizing 100 million Americans who chose to own firearms to defend themselves or for sport, or for whatever reason,” Schwartz said.

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