Fire sale: Dealers rush to sell ghost gun parts before bans go into effect

CBS Investigates: Dealers rush to sell ghost gun parts

CBS Investigates: Dealers rush to sell ghost gun parts


New federal laws prohibit those who are said to have only days left to run out Ghost guns In the year On August 24, many companies are scrambling to sell the parts needed to make the rare firearms — and gun enthusiasts continue to build.

In April, President Joe Biden He announced new rules From parts bought online or with 3D printers — like other firearms sold in the U.S. — to help treat ghost guns

Regular firearms must include a serial number that allows law enforcement to trace them if they are used in a crime, but ghost guns do not have serial numbers. Also, anyone can buy ghost gun parts online without a background check, allowing criminals to bypass restrictions designed to prevent them from buying a traditional firearm from a licensed dealer.

Online, many websites that sell ghost gun parts have posted countdowns to the day the rule goes into effect and posted information for enthusiasts who want to continue building firearms at home.

Ghost gun parts retailers such as have been notified of changes to ATF regulations for privately owned firearms.

The sites include companies like, which urges visitors to “grab your freedom while you can” and links to product listings of AR-15 receivers. A similar site,, has promised to continue shipping ghost gun parts until the day the law goes into effect. Representatives from and did not respond to requests for comment from CBS News.

The number of gun deaths in America has been on the rise in recent years. There is no information on how many ghost gun units are sold, but the number seen at crime scenes has increased in recent years, according to the Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) gun control agency.

In its latest report on the US gun market, the ATF noted a jump in Google trends data in recent years, indicating an increase in interest in ghost gun parts.

That data shows that key searches related to certain ghost gun categories have risen more than 600 percent over the past decade.

The ATF report also said ghost guns are being made “to manufacture weapons at home without any records or background checks.”
Bob and Hugh are two of those who do. Fearing a backlash, they asked CBS News to use only their first names.

In their garage in California’s Central Valley, they make AR-15-style rifles that look like rifle components but, under current federal law, are just scrap metal.

The so-called “80 percent receiver” will be considered a tool when the new ATF rules are implemented.

Once assembled, the guns Bob and Hugh make are identical to those sold in stores, with one key difference: Custom-built guns don’t have serial numbers.

Bob and Hugh began putting serial numbers on all the guns they made in 2018 when California required ghost guns to have serial numbers. It is one of only a handful of states that fully regulate firearms.

Laws like California’s will be extended to all states once the new ATF rules are implemented. This does not mean that privately produced firearms will be illegal, but ghost guns must be serialized, meaning they must have a serial number. The regulations require anyone buying the units to submit to a background check.

Bob said the new law would prevent law-abiding citizens from operating weapons like his. He also said he fears criminals will continue to make guns that are not easily controlled but are not illegally manufactured.

“The rules discourage a lot of people like me who want to make sure everything is above board,” he said. “They hope people don’t come out and participate in this hobby.”

Activists and federal officials hope these new regulations will help reduce the use of deadly guns in violent crime.

David Puccino, deputy general counsel of the Gifford Law Center, which supports stricter gun control laws, said it’s a “strong law” that allows hobbyists like Bob and Hugh to continue. .

“For the end user, if you’re a responsible gun owner who wants to make their own gun, you’re not going to have any results — no change,” Puccino said. “It makes the processes you go through to buy a finished gun the same. But if you’re a criminal who tries to skirt the rules, you can’t do it anymore because you can’t get the parts that go into making these ghost guns.”

Ghost guns have presented an increasing problem for law enforcement in recent years. All ghost guns found at crime scenes — more than 99% — are never found, according to the ATF. At the same time, the number of ghost guns used in crime has increased dramatically – a 1,000% jump since 2016, although they still only account for 3% of all guns seized by police.

Special Agent in Charge Charlie Patterson of the ATF’s Washington Field Division called the trend “very troubling.”

“Come in here [Washington, D.C.]41 percent of privately owned firearms are involved in another shooting.

Patterson said he’s confident the new law will make a difference.

“I think any tool that law enforcement has that can disrupt human trafficking and prevent the loss of someone’s life through gun violence is going to make a difference,” he said.

The key to the new rules being truly effective, Puccino said, is “implementation.”

“What we want is for the ATF to be very careful in enforcing the rule,” Puccino said. “It’s to make sure that people who sell firearms under different names, who sell the parts … that are used to make guns, are regulated in the same way that people who sell weapons. And if ATF does that, I think the regulation will be very, very effective.”

But gun owners and advocates like Bob and Hugh believe the new laws aren’t the only way to reduce crime.

“It won’t work,” said Hugh. Because it’s the same thing, criminals don’t obey the law.

For this story, CBS News consulted with The Trace, a nonprofit journalism organization that reports on guns. Trace reporter Alain Stephenson examines the ATF’s efforts to reduce the criminal use of ghost guns in light of federal rule changes. Read the full story here.

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