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SOCO Student Media from Colorado State University Pueblo

The Today

SOCO Student Media from Colorado State University Pueblo

The Today

SOCO Student Media from Colorado State University Pueblo

The Today

‘Ghost guns’ rampant in Colorado gun crimes

Photo provided by Pexels, Somchai Kongkamsri.

By Julian Volk

‘Ghost guns’ have become a growing problem in Colo., attributing to 692 murders and attempted homicide investigations nationwide. A presumed ‘ghost gun’ was used by the Club Q shooter during the Nov. 19 shooting. 

‘Ghost guns’ are un-serialized and untraceable firearms that can be purchased online, or even 3D printed, and/ or assembled by whoever and are currently legal to build and own in Colo. On normal firearms, serial numbers are included on the firearm. The serial number shows the date and location a firearm was manufactured and is meant to help find stolen firearms. ‘Ghost guns’ have made it quite difficult for investigators for these reasons. 

However, another feature that serial numbers offer is helping investigators trace a gun to its origin. The manufacturer keeps the serial number of a firearm that has been shipped to a customer. Micro stamps are usually engraved on the firing pin of a firearm, so when a trigger is pulled, the casing fired is stamped with the serial number by the firing pin.

But, with ‘ghost guns’ having no serial numbers, checking for microstamping in crimes where they are used becomes useless. This means tracing the firearm used in cases where ‘ghost guns’ are used becomes impossible for investigators, leading to many cold cases with limited forensic evidence. 

As mentioned, ‘ghost guns’ construction and use are legal in Colo. The Gun Control Act, enacted in 1968, states that manufacturing guns for sale without a license is illegal. However, it states nothing about manufacturing firearms for personal use, meaning you can purchase/ make parts of a firearm without breaking the Gun Control Act. Some states, such as California, have laws against non-serialized firearms, but Colo. is not included in this group. In Colo., you can own a gun without a license or a serial number. 

The Club Q shooting took place at the Colo. Springs LGBTQ+ club right around midnight. Reports came out a few days later, on Nov. 22, stating that the weapon used in the shooting was a ‘ghost gun.’ The long firearm appeared fully automatic, letting the shooter fire around forty to fifty shots before being stopped. Although unclear where the shooter had gotten the parts, the legality of ‘ghost guns’ wouldn’t have made it hard for them. The Gun Control Act also means that sales and purchases of parts for ‘ghost guns’ are legal, so long as they are sold separately from each other. The sale, buying, and assembly of the shooter’s firearm was completely legal in Colo.

Governor Jared Polis has voiced his support for the banning in Colo. “We joined the call of Mayor Suthers, Mayor Coffin, and Mayor Hancock, bipartisan mayors in our three biggest cities, to take action on ‘ghost guns,’” said Polis in a Jan. 17, 2023 State of the State speech, “We have no current system to make them harder to attain in Colorado, nor any way of preventing criminals from acquiring them.”

Polis also addressed the possibility of a Red Flag law, which allows law enforcement to remove someone’s firearms if they are having a mental crisis and return them after the crisis. This lowers the chance of that individual injuring themselves or others during a mental crisis, hypothetically stopping shootings and suicides by people with mental illness. However, under current law, persons considered harmful by the Red Flag law can purchase, build, or 3D print ‘ghost guns’ themselves without repercussions. 

Coloradoan Saul Ramirez Escobedo is one man who fears the impact of ‘ghost guns’ in Colo. crime. In an interview with the United States Attorney Office’s Colorado district, he explained how he once was a manufacturer and seller of these non-serialized firearms. He was arrested on charges of selling firearms without a license and sentenced to four years of probation in 2021. 

“Right now, you look at the media; there’s a lot of killings going on, you see a lot of people shooting each other, mass killings and stuff. I started looking into that and thought, ‘man, that could be one of the guns I put out on the streets,’ and it’s really scary,” Escobedo said.

‘Ghost guns’ are currently illegal in Denver but are still legal in many other Colo. counties, becoming a staple of local gun crime. 

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