Unserialized guns found on criminals in Massachusetts

Thousands of people in Massachusetts are legally licensed to carry and own firearms and all sales are recorded with the state.

CHICOPEE, Mass. (WWLP) - Many of the guns seized in Massachusetts are registered in other states. According to the ATF, 178 guns from New Hampshire were used to commit crimes in Massachusetts last year.

The 22News I-Team discovered, some crime guns can't be traced back to their original owner, because they were purchased online, in pieces, and assembled by an individual.

“You're buying a piece here, a piece here, a piece here, you're making a gun.”

They're unregistered, unserialized, and completely legal.

They're called "ghost guns," and can legally be purchased over the Internet in most states with an FID card. Ghost guns are made with an unfinished receiver, which is the pistol frame that houses internal components such as the hammer, and firing mechanism. Ghost guns don't require a serial number, but do require some modification.

“This will be not finished, and you will be missing a couple pins that still need to be drilled out. And no serial number will be on that because it's 80%, so there's no registration required.”

Mario Torchia owns Nick's Sports Shop in Palmer. He doesn't build ghost guns, but showed the I-Team how the process works. “And once you have those pieces drilled out, you got yourself a gun"

When someone uses a gun to commit a crime, law enforcement will use the serial number to track that gun to its original owner, ghost guns don't have serial numbers, making them nearly impossible to track.

Mickey Leadingham is the Special Agent in Charge of the ATF's Boston Field Division. He told the I-Team if a person is prohibited from legally possessing a firearm, they're also prohibited from possessing a ghost gun. “If you're caught with that firearm you could be prosecuted, because once you turn that into an actual firearm, you're in violation of federal law.”

Under Massachusetts law, a receiver qualifies as a firearm, which means if you manufacture it, you're legally required to register it. Yet dozens of unregistered ghost guns have been found on criminals across the state.

So far this year, the ATF has confiscated 115 firearms that either have no serial numbers, or obliterated serial numbers. A concern for lawmakers.

State representative Bud Williams said, “Who knows how many guns are out here that were bought online, assembled, and from my understanding, there is no limit on the number of guns you can buy online, so do know how many guns are out there? No.”

According to ATF, there is no way of knowing how many ghost guns are out there. Special agent Leadingham also said there's a legitimate market for ghost guns. He said most of the time, they're purchased by gun enthusiasts, not by criminals.

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