'Ghost guns' investigation: Law enforcement seeing unserialized firearms on daily basis in SoCal

Local law enforcement and federal authorities tell Eyewitness News that they are now coming across firearms without serial numbers, also known as "ghost guns," every day on the streets of Southern California.

"Forty-one percent, so almost half our cases we're coming across are these 'ghost guns'," said Carlos A. Canino, the Special Agent in charge of the ATF Los Angeles Field Division. "What's changed is technology. The technology makes it easy for someone to make one of these, even to mass produce these."

Investigators say a "ghost gun" was used in the November shooting at Saugus High School by the teenage gunman who killed two classmates and injured three others. A "ghost gun" was also used by the suspect who killed CHP Officer Andre Moye Junior in Riverside last summer.

These weapons can easily be made from a do-it-yourself gun kit. A variety are sold online, including kits to build handguns and rifles. The parts are packaged up and can be shipped to anyone's home. With a drill and basic skills, virtually anyone can build a gun today in the comfort of their own home legally, Canino said.

"If you can go to one of these big-box stores and put that type of furniture together, if you're putting together your kids Christmas toys, you can make a homemade gun. It's that easy," said Canino. "It all comes in one box with the tools you need to do it with."

And there's no age or background check required to buy a gun kit, because technically, the kit is made of only parts. Once those parts are drilled and put together, that's when the kit becomes a firearm.

Here at Eyewitness News, we purchased a gun kit to build a pistol and it arrived within 10 days. There were 13 pieces in the box with the exact jig included to guide the buyer on where to drill the gun frame. We did not drill into our frame, because in California, there are state laws you must follow first. That includes applying for a serial number with the Department of Justice before building a pistol or rifle, and most pistol kits do not meet California's latest handgun standards to get serial number approval.

With that being said, Canino says federal officers are finding more "ghost gun" pistols on Southern California streets, because they're easier to make, and he questions what criminal or gang member is going to apply for a serial number, because the kits can be shipped to your home without one.

"My biggest concern is that the criminal element can mass produce unserialized, untraceable firearms with ease," Canino said.

And without a serial number, that often means there's no way for investigators to trace guns left behind at crime scenes.

"When you find one of these guns that doesn't have anything, what do you do? You're gonna finger print it, but it's difficult to get finger prints off firearms. I don't care what CSI says on Tuesday nights. It's hard to get DNA off guns," Canino said. "What concerns me is technology has outpaced legislation. This is not a second amendment issue. We have a healthy robust legal firearms industry in this country and that's a good thing. It's a public safety issue."

Law enforcement officials have been urging lawmakers to pass legislation to regulate gun kits and ghost guns.

Stay tuned to ABC7 Eyewitness News at 5 p.m. Friday, when we press state and federal lawmakers on the issue. We'll show you how they feel about "ghost gun" regulation, along with the response from the NRA and the California Rifle and Pistol Association.
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