OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — It’s legal, but when used in crime has the potential to make life more difficult for law enforcement agencies like the Omaha Police Department. They’re called ghost guns.
Ghost guns, or privately manufactured firearms, are “typically acquired over the internet in a kit,” said John Ham, spokesperson Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives Kansas City Field Division.
These guns make it more difficult to investigate gun crime, Ham said.
OPD officers say they’ve recovered 16 ghost guns so far in 2021. Three of those were turned over voluntarily for safe-keeping.
“That gun, we don’t know exists, nor do we have a way to find out who bought it, where it came from,” he said.
The Bellevue Police Department said it has recovered five ghost guns in the last two years.
If it’s not intended to be sold and you’re not prohibited, it’s legal, Ham said.
“It’s where those guns are designed and sort of marketed in that they’re completely untraceable to law enforcement, sort of marked to be used in crime, that’s the real alarming thing here and that’s certainly something we want to stay in front of,” Ham said.
A website selling these near-complete gun kits also sells pre-programmed CNC machines, which in this case, aid in the manufacturing of guns. The site says it "allows you to manufacture firearms with confidence and ease, in the privacy of your own home."
It appears to market to the fact that what they sell isn’t traceable. When 3 News Now visited the website recently, a pop-up advertisement asked readers to sign up for their newsletter to “be ahead of the feds” in a rapidly-changing ghost gun market.
Another website markets their kits to "be ready for the range in no time."
It’s illegal to scratch off the serial number from a gun that was manufactured with one. But it’s not required to put a serial number on a gun built from parts if it’s not going to be resold.
More ghost guns have been recovered locally in the last few years than prior, but local law enforcement agencies aren’t yet raising alarm bells like others have across the nation.
“It’s been a bigger issue on either coast,” Ham said. “The Midwest … firearms trafficking issues remain sort of traditional in the fact that in the Midwest there are a lot of gun owners, a lot of sportsmen, a lot of gun enthusiasts, and as such there’s pretty easy access to firearms through theft, through straw purchasing means.”