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Is there a ghost in your house?

For you, it could mean Halloween or Christmas.  Jail is also an option.

Bob Rogers

Cody Wilson launched Defense Distributed in 2012 when he successfully printed the first 3D gun, a “plastic” pistol that he successfully fired. As time wore on and Wilson became bogged down in legal issues unrelated to his firearms blueprints which he was determined to distribute online to anyone, a ‘new’ industry was born: gun parts, which allowed individuals to purchase bits and pieces to make a pistol or rifle from separate parts. Once considered possibly illegal because at least one portion of a gun – the receiver of an AR-15, for instance – did not have a part serial number engraved on the “lower,” the ATF fiddled around with possible regulations long enough to provide a restrictive gap which grew like a tsunami into its own component industry. An AR-15’s receiver is composed of the two parts, the ‘upper” which accesses the barrel, and the ‘lower’ which houses the trigger group and magazine well.

Parts of a gun, like the parts of anything else, are not considered as the whole product until fully assembled prior to release from the factory for sale to its respective market. For most products its parts are unregulated and can be purchased from a variety of outlets. In the case of guns, they are heavily regulated by the ATF and in some cases legislated by lawmakers. Not everyone can buy a fully produced gun, normally via a firearms retailer who requires a background check to assure the buyer is not a felon or any other classification that would prohibit the buyer from possessing a gun, much less owning one. Until recently.

In 2017 a mentally bothered man with a criminal history, Kevin Neal, rushed a northern California school determined to stage a shootout. He used an AR-15 rifle he built himself from parts he ordered online to kill his wife and four others before driving to the nearby elementary school in Tehama, California, where he fired 30 rounds outside the school. The school immediately went on lockdown and no children were hurt.

The media, bolstered by comments from police on the scene of the shooting, gave those assembled parts a name:  Ghost Gun. Between Cody Wilson’s 3D printer efforts and the plethora of unregulated gun parts, so-called ghost guns have become popular.  Like anything else earning the DIY moniker, guns are among lots of products that can illegally escape regulation, prompting the question, “Should gun parts continue to escape federal and/or state regulation?” The answers to that one are varied; “Why not?” says one. “Absolutely” says another, and neither respondents are linked to pro-gun or gun control organizations.

Ghost guns may end up being a matter of opinion issue. They may be shackled and tagged with taxes or allowed to be as free as the wind in the open market. But one thing is for sure: Someday, somewhere, in your home or someone else’s home, a determined knock on the door may be the ghost you hoped would never show you his badge and ID but maybe only his fist full of cash. How you respond may end up being your path to entrepreneurship. Or prison.

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