Unregistered, untraceable guns recovered in Massachusetts

Top Recovery Cities for Guns in Massachusetts

Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives Office of Strategic Intelligence and Information
(January 1, 2016 – December 31, 2016)

Boston – 640
Springfield – 112
New Bedford – 102
Ludlow – 92
Worcester – 84
Brockton – 67
Holyoke – 67
Lawrence – 57
Lynn – 57

(Data includes guns that were licensed and registered)

BOSTON, Mass. (WWLP) - Many of the guns seized in Massachusetts are registered in other states.

According to the ATF, 178 guns from New Hampshire, 105 guns from Maine, 63 guns for Florida, and 57 guns from Georgia were confiscated 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.

They're called "ghost guns," and the pieces to make them 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. Most of the time, they don’t have a serial number, but do require some modification.

Mario Torchia owns Nick's Sports Shop in Palmer. He doesn't build guns, but showed the I-Team how the process would work. “This will be not finished, and you will be missing a couple pins that still need to be drilled out.”

Torchia told the I-Team as gun laws get stricter, ghost guns get more appealing. “I think the government, by banning these types of guns, has created that market. So now, you have a whole market of legal gun owners that want these guns, that can build them, and the state has no record of them.”

Mickey Leadingham is the Special Agent in Charge of the ATF's Boston Field Division. He told the I-Team, when someone uses a gun to commit a crime, law enforcement will use the serial number to track that gun to its original owner. “There's no serial numbers or makings on that firearm that could allow us, the ATF, to track that back to the original manufacturer, because he or she is the manufacturer.”

Leadingham 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 unregistered and unserialized ghost guns have been found on criminals in Massachusetts.

According to the ATF, officers have confiscated 115 firearms in Massachusetts this year that either have no serial numbers, or obliterated serial numbers.

State Representative Bud Williams told the I-Team, that number is a concern for lawmakers. “Who knows how many guns are out here that were bought online, assembled. Do know how many guns are out there? No, and it’s scary.

Special Agent Leadingham also said there's a legitimate market across the country for ghost guns. He said most of the time, they're purchased by gun enthusiasts, not by criminals. "Criminals usually don't take the time to manufacture their own firearms."

According to ATF, there is no way of knowing how many ghost guns are out there.

 

Map of Gun Licenses Issued in Massachusetts

Receiver Blank Identification

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