The 'Ghost Gun' Debate Continues in New York

AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File

This is one of those stories from out in the hinterlands that typically wouldn't garner any sort of national attention. But it brings us back to the ongoing debate over so-called ghost guns and the ability to keep them out of the hands of those not legally entitled to own them. Ghost guns are either firearms that are created from parts available online or standard weapons that have had their serial numbers illegally removed. The event unfolded last week in the city of Binghamton, New York, located near the Pennsylvania border. Police conducted a traffic stop and found that one occupant of the vehicle was a 17-year-old who was in possession of a 9mm ghost gun. Both teens were detained and an investigation followed.  (WBNG News)

The Broome County Special Investigations Unit Task Force announced the arrest of a minor who was in possession of a “ghost gun.”

The task force said the minor, who was only 17-year-old, was charged with criminal possession of a weapon; a class C felony, criminal possession of a firearm; a class E felony and criminal possession of a weapon in the fourth degree; a class A misdemeanor.

On April 5, around 5:30 p.m., members of the task force conducted a traffic stop in the area of Tremont and Conklin avenues in Binghamton. During the investigation, police found two juveniles in the vehicle and one of them had a loaded 9mm ghost gun, which is a weapon that is comprised of parts bought online or has its serial number scratched off.

A request for further information from the local police was not returned, so there are some unanswered questions remaining. However, this is just one example of incidents such as this that are showing up with alarming frequency. In this case, the teenager with the gun wound up being hit with two felonies and a misdemeanor before being released on his own recognizance. The other teen was released and did not take any charges.

It may sound as if the teen with the gun got off easy, but that's impossible to say at this point. There is no indication that the boys were being specifically sought for any other, more serious crimes. There hasn't been any word as to whether either of the boys had a prior criminal record. It was described simply as "a traffic stop." We also don't know how the police discovered the weapon. Was the boy waving it around? Did he volunteer the information? These would all be factors in determining if and when he should have been released. 

Let's assume for the moment that the case is being handled appropriately for now. That still doesn't touch on the original question of these ghost guns. Of particular concern is the fact that a 17-year-old can't legally purchase or possess a 9mm handgun on their own. Even if you (along with me) like the idea of law-abiding adults being able to produce their own firearms if they have the required skills and wish to do so, something, in this case, went very much off the rails. 

There are only a few ways this could have happened. If the teen purchased the parts himself online and built the gun, then he was violating the law but he did so without being detected. If someone else built the gun and either sold it to the teen or gave it to him as a gift, that person should be in trouble as well. That applies even if it was a parent. If he stole the gun, then the teen should be in even more trouble. There is no simple, innocent explanation for how we arrived at this turn of events. 

The original idea was that only law-abiding adults should be accessing this technology and creating firearms for themselves. Even if you hold an FFL, you're not supposed to be trafficking in firearms without serial numbers. Unfortunately, with human nature being what it is, you can't rely on everyone playing by those rules. It's even more alarming and complicated when the firearms show up in the hands of those not legally qualified to possess them. So is this one strike against the idea of having this ghost gun technology available to the public? If not, what further guardrails can be established to prevent these sorts of incidents from happening? If responsible supporters of the Second Amendment want to be taken seriously, those are the type of questions we need to be prepared to answer. At the moment, I'm coming up very much short of answers.

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David Strom 3:00 PM | May 20, 2024