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By Lee Williams

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has a unique reputation among federal law enforcement agencies. Quite frankly, the ATF is well known for not always telling the truth. Whether its firearm statistics, after-action reports downplaying the body count of their latest sting to backfire or quotes from senior executives, any information coming from ATF is always suspect and must always be verified.

Verifying ATF information isn’t easy. They put up a lot of roadblocks. The ATF ignores Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests and its spokespeople rarely answer their phones or return emails. It’s as if the ATF doesn’t want to allow the public to peek behind their regulatory curtain because they’re scared of what will be found.

For example, one senior ATF official – Carlos A. Canino, former Special Agent in Charge (SAC) of the ATF’s Los Angeles Field Division – can be credited for jumpstarting the war on homemade firearms, so it’s especially important to verify everything he has said. After all, last year the ATF announced notice of proposed rulemaking that could regulate many of the core components of homemade firearms. To be clear, Canino’s quotes caused all of this.

In 2020, activists from the propaganda arm of former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg’s anti-gun empire asked Canino about the prevalence of homemade firearms in California. An earlier study said 30% of the guns recovered by ATF there were unserialized “ghost guns,” but Canino said the real numbers were actually much higher.

Ghost Guns
Sgt. Matthew Elseth with “ghost guns” on display at the headquarters of the San Francisco Police Department in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Haven Daley,File)

“Forty-one percent, so almost half our cases we’re coming across are these ‘ghost guns,’” Canino told the anti-gun activists. That was all it took. The entire gun-ban industry jumped on Canino’s statement like a duck on a June bug. The war on homemade firearms had officially begun, and ATF’s Los Angeles SAC fired the first shots.

Unverifiable Claim

Erik Longnecker likely will not have a long or prosperous career at the ATF. Longnecker, the program manager for the ATF’s Public Affairs Division’s Office of Public and Governmental Affairs, has a habit of actually returning emails from investigative reporters. This is rare and not exactly career-enhancing at the agency.

In a lengthy email chain yesterday, I asked Longnecker to verify Canino’s comments, and to add some context. Specifically, how many firearms did ATF’s Los Angeles Field Division seize? Did the 41% constitute five or six homemade firearms or were there hundreds or thousands.

To be clear, Longnecker was unable to verify Canino’s statement or add any context.

“I contacted the Los Angeles Field Division earlier today after your initial email, and their Public Information Officer was unable to verify any figures provided in 2019 by former-SAC Canino without knowing the time-period(s) he used for his comments,” Longnecker said in the email. “For that reason, we rely on verifiable data generally documented on our website or obtained through a FOIA request.”

ghost gun 80% arms
(JWT for TTAG)

Longnecker supplied statistics about the numbers of homemade firearms he claimed were recovered by law enforcement at possible crime scenes nationwide from Jan. 1, 2016, through Dec. 31, 2020, which were submitted to ATF for tracing – a total of 23,906 guns during the five-year period, or roughly 13 guns per day.

  • 2016: 1,750
  • 2017: 2,507
  • 2018: 3,776
  • 2019: 7,161
  • 2020: 8,712

“I am not aware of any other verified PMF (Privately Made Firearm) data that has been published by ATF,” Longnecker wrote.

This is outrageous. The entire war on homemade firearms was based on alleged ATF data, which the ATF now claims it cannot verity. Civil rights are about to be violated, and gunmakers and firearm parts manufacturers are about to be put out of business, all based on spurious data from a single former ATF official who the agency now appears to have disavowed.

Weaponized Data

“ATF does not label any firearm as a ‘ghost gun,’ but prefers to use the term ‘privately made firearm,” Longnecker explained during our correspondence Monday.

Whatever. No one seems to have told the Biden-Harris administration about the ATF’s preferred label. Like the anti-gun industry, the White House grabbed onto Canino’s comments and took off.

“In May 2021, the Justice Department’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) issued a proposed rule to help stop the proliferation of “ghost guns,” which are unserialized, privately made firearms that are increasingly being recovered at crime scenes and have been identified by law enforcement officials as a serious threat to public safety. Today, criminals are buying kits containing nearly all of the components and directions for finishing a firearm within as little as 30 minutes and using these firearms to commit crimes,” according to a White House Fact Sheet published last week, in the section titled: “Reining in the proliferation of ghost guns.”

Courtesy JSD Supply

The Chicago Sun-Times is the latest media outlet to glom onto the fact-free ghost-gun cavalcade in an editorial titled “‘Ghost’ guns are a gift to criminals. It’s time to ban them.”

“Ghost guns are firearms purchasers assemble themselves without serial numbers, making them easy to obtain and hard to trace. Some are ‘printed’ on 3-D printers and include no metal, allowing owners to carry them through metal detectors undetected,” the paper’s editorial board wrote.

Note: If some of their readers try to carry a “ghost gun” through a TSA checkpoint, they and the editorial board will likely be very surprised by the outcome.

The Chicago newspaper cited Canino’s fictional statistics and used the tired attempt at attribution – “police say.”

“Police say ghost guns are a growing problem,” the newspaper wrote. “Last year, they confiscated 455 ghost guns in Chicago. In 2019, law enforcement agencies recovered 10,000 ghost guns nationwide. In 2020, 41% of the ATF’s cases in Los Angeles were ghost guns.”

Police Really Don’t Say

None of the senior law enforcement officers I’ve interviewed about homemade firearms have said homemade guns are a problem. Most haven’t seen any – not one. Several had their staff check their property rooms for homemade firearms recovered from crime scenes. None were found.

Build your own ghost gun
Polymer80 kit gun (Travis Pike for TTAG)

Several top cops accused the ATF of conflating homemade firearms with factory-made guns that have had their serial numbers illegally altered or removed, which could account for ATF’s high number of trace requests. I asked Longnecker about this. His response was somewhat vague:

“ATF investigates the criminal possession and other criminal misuse of both commercially manufactured and privately made firearms. These privately made firearms can be made from multiple sources and frequently lack serial numbers and other markings which generally make the firearms more difficult to trace,” he wrote. “ATF also investigates the criminal possession and other criminal misuse of firearms that have had serial numbers altered or obliterated. Firearms that have had serial numbers partially or fully obliterated usually have other markings that assist in the positive identification and tracing of the firearms. ATF uses this information to identify firearms trafficking patterns and related crimes.”

Takeaways

The war on homemade firearms – like the war on guns itself – is based on false claims, skewed statistics, faulty logic, and lashings of media hype. Both seek to demonize an inanimate object and punish legitimate gun owners for the sins of a few bad men.

Whether you own a homemade firearm or not, we must all push back against what is an assault on our civil rights. Clearly, the gun-ban industry is using their bump stock template to target yet another legal product. Their move was expected, similar to their ongoing effort to ban pistol braces.

80% Arms GST-9 80% Pistol Build Kit
80% Arms GST-9 (JWT for TTAG)

ATF’s role was expected too. They’re clearly assisting the anti-gunners, inflating the number of tracing requests by combining homemade firearms with factory guns with altered serial numbers. How else could they claim “ghost guns” are a growing problem, right?

I have said before no one makes a better case for abolishing the ATF than the ATF.

Then, as now, the country would be safer without them.

 

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This story is part of the Second Amendment Foundation’s Investigative Journalism Project and is published here with their permission.

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38 COMMENTS

  1. Wild assed unsupported statements favoring gun control? Out right lies? This is my surprised face.

    There is not a single person of honor that supports gun control. It is a crime against humanity and an attack on civil rights.

    The nicest thing you can say about a supporter of gun control is that they are evil.

  2. RE: “The entire gun-ban industry jumped on Canino’s statement like a duck on a June bug.”

    Sad to say…The above rolls mainly because politically inept history illiterate so called gun-owners blow their chances to stop it from rolling. I.E. When an article appeared about banks discriminating against firearm manufacturers far too many folded like a cheap tent and the discussion turned to everything but addressing blatant discrimination. A june bug hasn’t a worry when such omni-directional gun owning quacks are around.

  3. The good folks at Ghost Adventures don’t need any verifiable proof or data either and they’ve been cashing in for twenty years now.

    If there’s an agenda to push or money to make rest assured all the data is fake. All of it. It’s all fake. Only trust yourself. If you’re hungry, eat. If you’re thirsty, drink. If you like guns, like guns. The ATF and their “data” and anyone else trying to convince you you aren’t hungry can eat a bag of dicks.

  4. “2016: 1,750
    2017: 2,507
    2018: 3,776
    2019: 7,161
    2020: 8,712“

    So the use of privately made firearms in crime has increased by 500% over four years?

    Nothing to see here, move along…

      • Well Jethro I do support sane gun control laws and I do support Biden 110% He has already banned Ghost Guns through ATF regulation and its only his first year in office.

        Stay tuned for more sane gun control to come such as Universal Background Checks and Safe Storage Laws, none of which take anyone’s guns away. Its the way civilized countries operate. And their lower homicide and crime rate with guns proves it.

        • Don’t hold your breath waiting. Otherwise you’ll turn blue, black, and give off a bad smell. Actually. Please do hold your breath until the changes are made.

        • No, dacian, PLEASE hold your breath!!! PLEASE!!!

          If you won’t limit yourself to your daily circle jerk, then you holding your breath until Senile Joe does ANYTHING effective will serve nicely as a substitute. Or you could limit yourself to micturating up the cable, or pounding salt in your @$$. Whatever, as long as it doesn’t involve you subjecting the rest of us to your deranged Leftist/fascist rants. We’d REALLY appreciate your extended absence!!

        • “Well Jethro I do support sane gun control laws and I do support Biden 110% ”

          You spelled insane wrong

        • You just keep putting your foot/dick in your mouth, California has everyone of the laws FJB wants and it still does not work, we have a CRIME problem and they, DEMOCRAPS keep letting people doing the CRIME walk, I see gangs of guns just roaming the streets looking for trouble, ha ha, ya right. Stop the BS, they are truly mad here in Kommieland, the animals run the streets and DEMOCRAPS are causing it and helping crime, as they do with the border.

    • If actually true, the increase would be noteworthy. But note that these were only seized from “potential crime scenes.” Given the questionable ATF raids on several manufacturers of 80% kits, those numbers may very well included seizures of hundreds or thousands of kits in a single raid. The statistics weren’t verified that what they seized were actually even functional firearms yet.

    • What is the ATF’s definition of “privately made firearm”, MinorIQ??? Do be specific. Perhaps it would help if you looked at https://www.atf.gov/rules-and-regulations/definition-frame-or-receiver/summary. The freakin’ ATF doesn’t know what it means by “privately made firearms” (nor to they have any idea how an actual firearms works – the FCG is more integral to the functioning of an AR than is the lower receiver (the part the ATF USED to require to be serialized – now they are apparently proposing to require serialization of nearly every piece – I guess they’ve never figured out how a gun actually works, have they???).

      Please, MinorIQ, continue flaunting your partisan ignorance. It SO enhances your already non-existent credibility. On a similar note, explain to us again how Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution authorizes universal gun control – that’s a laugh f***ing riot!! Just admit you’re a partisan, Leftist/fascist idiot who hates the Constitution, because you see it as preventing all your Leftist/fascist wet dreams from coming true (so far, at least).

      I ALWAYS disagreed with you, MinorIQ, but I used to have a modicum of respect for you . . . until you started pounding the drum on that IDIOT argument that Article I, Section 8 was a basis for universal gun control. That is the single STUPIDEST thing you’ve ever written, and it disqualifies you from being considered anything other than a . . . partisan idiot.

      Go back to the circle jerk, and leave us alone. You are too stupid to insult, and too stupid to mock.

  5. From the article:

    “None of the senior law enforcement officers I’ve interviewed about homemade firearms have said homemade guns are a problem. Most haven’t seen any – not one. Several had their staff check their property rooms for homemade firearms recovered from crime scenes. None were found.”

    I’ve used my favorite and most reliable P80 for nearly every course at Front Sight since joining a few years ago. And every time I go through weapons check (mandatory upon check-in on the morning of the first day of any course), the staff always remark that they’ve never seen one on campus before, and are impressed. And during the (2-day or 4-day) class, I always get comments and questions from other students and junior instructors because they, too, have never seen a P80 before.

    In my hometown, not a single LEO in my circle has stated he’s seen one in person before, and they always express interest and ask about mine, often wanting to hold it to check it out for themselves (grip angle, stipling pattern, trigger control, etc.).

    PMFs are not as ubiquitous and common as the MSM would like the general sheeple public to believe. At least, not yet.

  6. If true, the ATF could easily prove the numbers presented are correct. Let’s see these guns or the records of their destruction. If they have been ‘destroyed’, I’m sure there are pics as evidence somewhere.

  7. BATF should have been disbanded after their screw up in Waco. They knew they had been compromised and no longer had the element of surprise and went in anyway. Had they been actually interested in arresting Koresh; they could have done so with minimal risk when he went into town every week.
    Secondly, BATFE was originally a tax collection agency. Responsible for collecting excise taxes on Alcohol, tobacco, and the NFA firearms etc. The agency was never supposed to be anything but revenuers as they were during Prohibition. That is why they were under Treasury until they got rolled into Homeland Security. Another joke of an Agency. Nothing but another layer of burocracy.

  8. WHY is it not a crime for government officials to deliberately lie bout things of general concern to We the Peole who pay their salaries?

    • Tionico,

      How do you tell when a politician (gun control advocate, bureaucrat, etc.) is lying?? Their lips are moving.

      They don’t ever prosecute them because D.C., and most state capitols, would be empty (not saying that would be a BAD thing).

  9. We need this to recognize it for what it truly is, an attempt to ban the sale of all gun parts, period.
    While you can 3-D print a receiver, it is much harder to forge a barrel or machine a hammer.

  10. My question is: what do the proposed rule changes mean for existing 80% owners?

    1. If you have a completed Personally Made Firearm from one of these 80% lowers, made before the new rule date, then: what does the new rule mean for you?

    2. If you have an unfinished 80% lower kit or just the frame, as it came from the factory, that you just haven’t gotten to yet: does the rule affect you?

    3. If you do have an unfinished lower, should you be rushing to finish it before the rule takes effect? Or will it matter?

    4. After the rule takes effect, will 80% lowers be outlawed? Or will you still be able to get one, so long as you fill out the 4473?

    • “If you have a completed Personally Made Firearm from one of these 80% lowers, made before the new rule date, then: what does the new rule mean for you?”

      As I currently understand it, you will be required to affix a unique serial number on it, to BATF standards, as in depth of engraving into the metal.

      Again, as I understand it, you won’t be required to register it, but they probably will in the very near future.

      Most of this is speculative, as the SCotUS is expected in the near future to make a ruling that may severely limit what the regulatory state (read, BATF, EPA, etc.) has the power to do…

  11. He is calling guns that can not be tracked as “ghost guns”. There are many reasons for this, and it is not homemade guns. Mostly it is guns sold before the laws that listed buyers to serial numbered guns. People have sold guns(legally – at the time) to others that remain nameless. There are many guns sold that never has a serial number to start with, they want to include all guns that are not registered to a person as “ghost guns” and force us to register them and put a unique serial number on them.

    • “Mostly it is guns sold before the laws that listed buyers to serial numbered guns.”

      Correct, and that’s about to make them far more valuable.

      If they rule that such guns must have a unique serial number engraved on them, that’s grounds for a class-action lawsuit correctly claiming valuable guns are being severely devalued with no compensation.

      And *that’s* likely an argument that will be seen sympathetically with the current SCotUS bench make-up…

  12. Most criminals are not buying kits and the parts needed to finish them in order to commit a crime. They’re stealing a gun, borrowing it from another gang member, or buying it from Cool Breeze or Ray Ray in an alley.

  13. I think there is some context or information missing here with these numbers…

    2016: 1,750
    2017: 2,507
    2018: 3,776
    2019: 7,161
    2020: 8,712

    The local ATF guys contract at a local range to lease time for their qualifications. The rest of us sit and wait while they are doing so, and watch them. Sometimes we have conversations with them. I’m at the range now, they just finished up.

    I pulled up this article and asked one of them about these numbers. He chuckled a little and told me to cut those numbers about 60% for 2019 and 2020 when considering personally made firearms (80% kits). The reason is those numbers also include commercially manufactured guns that do have serial numbers but were not yet traced at the time of the reports and commercially manufactured guns where the serial numbers have been defaced or obliterated in some way and they are not all personally made firearms. He also told me that when they have firearms for which the tracing is completed after a year report is complete that those numbers are rolled over to the next year report, which would falsely inflate the successive years reports in the years following.

    Based upon what he told me and doing some quick math, for example, the number for 2020 would me like ~3,200 and not 8,712. I asked him if that was about right. He said “think lower.”

  14. “ATF is Unable to Verify Its Own ‘Ghost Gun’ Claims”

    But their claims did get the ball rolling: mission accomplished.

    If political parties, and elected officials, aren’t in business to extinguish the opposition, they don’t understand the game. Either you are “the power”, or you are the zek.

    • “Now hold on folks, we’re going to get you what you’ve been requesting. See, it’s taking a lot longer to manufacture the evidence on account of the Rona. Oh, and a couple of our brighter agents were tied up with recently completing ten of them ( you didn’t really believe we just made the one, did you) built for a staged hidden camera news expose’. A coupla more months, o.k., a year or mebbe a little longer, we’ll get that info right out to you, and thank you for your patience.” Your friendly BATFE.

    • STOP SHOUTING, NTexas. Learn how to use your damn “caps” key!!!

      “Serial number on the barrel?” (See how easy that is???)

      You can replace a damn barrel on many guns in a few minutes (I’ve replaced barrels on ARs in the process of cleaning, and done the replacement AND cleaned the firearm in less than half an hour.). So, except for revolvers with “frame integrated” barrels (most, but not all), that covers . . . not much.

      • “Learn how to use your damn “caps” key!!!”

        He may have limited vision, I’m inclined to cut him some slack on it…

        • Geoff, I’m 69 years old – I have “limited vision” these days. You can, on almost all browsers, adjust the font size, or at least blow the screen up to 110%, 120%, etc. We’ve raised the point a number of times. He has never once come back and said “Hey, guys, I’m sorry but I HAVE to do this to be able to read the screen”, has he? And, if he can’t read anything smaller than ALL CAPS, how the hell does he read the articles and comments he is commenting on???? And how does him “needing” all caps apply to his comments? He doesn’t need to read those, he’s the one who wrote them.

          Props for being empathetic, and assuming the best, but it’s pretty obvious to me he’s just an annoying jerk.

  15. Obviously the T Tag contributor is violating T Tag policy of allowing opposing viewpoints on gun control. He is refusing to let me post the crimes and mass murders committed by ghost guns proving that yes they are a menace to U.S. Society.

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