The Proliferation of Ghost Guns: Regulation Gaps and Challenges for Law Enforcement | National Police Foundation

The Proliferation of Ghost Guns: Regulation Gaps and Challenges for Law Enforcement

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Abstract

Ghost guns (also known as privately made or unserialized firearms) have become a significant concern to law enforcement and public safety. The term “ghost gun” encompasses a variety of firearms produced from components that are not currently regulated by federal firearm laws. Most commonly, ghost guns are produced from components purchased from businesses and individuals that most often include nearly finished aluminum, polymer frames, or receivers. Advances in ghost gun parts manufacturing facilitates homemade production of firearms by non-technical users. Public safety and gun violence prevention advocates cite the growing representation of ghost guns in crime as well as the ease of production, lack of background checks, and poor traceability as reasons that ghost guns components and kits should be regulated like all other firearms. In this study, we addressed current knowledge gaps by exploring law enforcement agencies’ (LEA’s) experience with ghost guns to provide a national overview of current perceptions, practices, and recommendations for improving public policy. Interviews with command, patrol, forensics, and specialized units from 24 LEAs revealed that there was a patchwork of experience with, and strategies to address the public safety risk created by ghost guns. Policy recommendations based on this research include halting the proliferation of ghost guns through regulating the production and sale of ghost gun components and kits by updating the outdated definition of firearm. Recommendations for improvements on the process of tracking and reporting ghost gun data, training, within-agency information sharing, and research are also discussed.

Publication Date:
08/2021

Author:
National Police Foundation

Series:
Research and Evaluation