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The Rise of Untraceable ‘Ghost Guns’ the Wall Street Journal headline proclaims. An emerging black-market gun-making industry lets buyers bypass background checks and gun regulations, authorities say the sub-head adds. Oh no! . . .

Americans exercising their right to keep and bear arms without background checks and gun regulations! Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria! Or, if you’re the WSJ . . .

Because the guns bear no serial numbers, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is unable to track them. Serial numbers and gun registration play a key role in police and government investigations, allowing officers to trace a weapon’s history and owners.

Citation? *crickets chirping*

In fact, where a criminal gets his or her gun is all but completely irrelevant. So much so that the ATF doesn’t publish any data on the number of firearm traces that led to an arrest or conviction. Nor, as it turns out, the number of “ghost guns” it buys. Yes, buys.

About 250 ghost guns were seized or purchased in undercover buys by his Sacramento agents in 2017, he said. While statistics from the previous year weren’t available, Mr. Barlowe noted that his office has seen a rise in the number of busts. The ATF doesn’t keep track of ghost gun seizures nationwide.

Entrapment much?

The WSJ singularly, spectacularly fails to mention the reason behind the rise of the non-criminal market for “ghost guns”: law-abiding Americans who want to exercise their right to keep and bear arms without background checks and gun regulations. Because they don’t trust the government. Nor the mainstream media. For good reason.

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  1. Actually I find myself wondering just how many guns they find that have duplicate serial numbers. I recall seeing a documentary a few years ago that showed a few guy’s in Portugal hand building 1911s complete with brand markings and a serial number. This was a part of an international gun trade that often provided arms that made their way to the US. That kind of begs the question of how often do we see a duplicate serial number showing up in guns tracked by the ATF. I kind of wonder if one could go about filing a FOIA request to find out that information.

    • I remember reading an article (might have been tfb or a forgotten weapons video) about old guns that were essentially being duplicated by pakistanis. They replicated the firearms down to the S/N, so I’m sure that there’s thousands of firearms (if not millions) that could share the same serial number.

    • “I kind of wonder if one could go about filing a FOIA request to find out that information.” – Of course you can file a FOIA request. Based on Judicial Watches’ existence, good luck getting an answer without suing.

  2. Right. And what about all those old guns that were sold to Americans before Uncle Sugar mandated serial numbers on all guns? There must be millions of them still out there. I’ve got a couple (old non-S&W break-top revolvers). Horrors! The sky is falling…

    Actually, I’m kind of surprised to note an anti-gun article of this type in the WSJ, which (IMHO) has struck a fairly well-balanced stance regarding guns.

    • I’be got more than one gun with serial numbers, but the original purchaser is most certainly dead. One of them, the second or third owner is also probably dead.

      Point: Even many guns with serial numbers are completely untraceable.

  3. What a load of twaddle.

    Before the GCA of ’68, there were plenty (and I mean PLENTY) of shotguns and .22’s out there in the market without any serial number on them – and these guns were made by big-name gun companies. My book has multiple “NSN” entries in the “serial number” column from working on older guns like these.

    • I personally own 4 guns with NSN and only one of them is a “ghost gun”. The other 3 we’re made by major manufacturers, a long time ago.

  4. You note the ATF doesn’t publish any data on the number of firearm traces that led to an arrest or conviction.

    Do any of the jurisdictions with firearm registration regimes publish data on the number of times their registries were queried, and the number of those queries that led to an arrest or conviction?

    • Ha! If they published that data or even made it public, they’d then have to figure out how to justify their annual budget spent on such near-useless recordkeeping and staff.
      I love it when the subject of serial numbers comes up with a new customers: at some point they’ll ask about the “government being able to trace their new gun” – I love the puzzled look on their face when I explain that guns do not have GPS tracers in them and “tracing” a gun has almost no utility to investigators.

  5. The vast majority of comments under the story take the WSJ and anti gunners to the woodshed on this issue. The journal has a few lefties on it’s payroll, almost impossible not to.

  6. As you say, “Serial numbers and gun registration play a key role in police and government investigations, allowing officers to trace a weapon’s history and owners….Citation? *crickets chirping*” The time tracing plays a role–which it actually does on rare occasion–is when the owner (or someone in the owner’s family) is the shooter, or where there is an actual sales record to the ultimate shooter. I saw one of those on Kenda just the other night, but clearly if a gun is stolen tracing is useless. So just what ARE the statistics as to when tracing (which the ATF actually pushes) is useful? Inquiring minds want to know!

    • But that begs the question, how often is the gun recoverd but the perp (or suspect) not caught at the same time? Or I suppose another way to ask it is, how often is a gun abandoned at or near the crime scene?

    • Here’s a little corker for y’all.

      I cannot speak to other states, but I can address a recent issue FFL’s have found with more than a couple of Wyoming law enforcement organizations: They will no longer run a gun’s s/n to check if it has been reported stolen.

      So all our local pawn shops, me, the other gunsmiths in the area, who used to run serial numbers we might have suspected of being stolen? We can no longer get cops to run a s/n. The cops say that the only time they run a s/n now is “if the gun is found at the scene of a crime.”


    • I get a kick out of people who think that guns have serial numbers as a crime fighting tool. Guns have serial numbers for the same reason that washing machines do – so the manufacturer can know when, and on what production line, it was made in case they find out that it is defective.

  7. In fairness, having serial numbers and running traces could be used to help a stolen firearm get back to its rightful owner.

    Somehow, however, I don’t think that’s uppermost in their minds … nor a high priority for most law enforcement agencies.

    • *snort*
      If I had a dollar for every customer that needed my help researching the serial number of a gun sold to them that was recently stolen so they can complete their police report (and naturally, they failed to keep their printed receipt THAT I SPECIFICALLY TOLD THEM TO KEEP)…
      I figure the number of recovered stolen guns being returned must be EXTREMELY low due to folks not keeping proper records of their property. No serial number? Then why should the police believe it belonged to you?

      • every gun I’ve bought has had that little ATF pamphlet in it that has the spot for make model type and serial number in it. Unlike most people I actually freakin use it and keep that record in a lock box I update it when needed and keep the blank spares in the box incase I need those plus pictures of the guns in a binder and copies on CD and SD card in separate lock boxes. I say all this because it has come in handy one time. My Ruger LC9S was stolen (along with the safe it was in) out of my mother in law’s car when she requested something to use for home defense. The thief also stole her cd player and purse while she was in the gas station paying for fuel. I turned in the serial and everything and am now waiting for the little Ruger to resurface.

        • Then, at least so far, it has been *useless*! Including all of your effort and attention, and all the taxes you pay for government record keeping, fing USELESS! I bought a new 4″ Python in 1967, it was stolen from my car in 1969 (along with nearly every thing of value I owned), duly reported including SN. Cops had no real interest, as much as told me not to hold my breath, acted like insurance claim was the only reason they even bothered taking the report. That will soon be 50 years ago, and I have never seen *one word* about that report, or my gun. When that gun is returned to me, I will consider ever filing another such report, or indeed ever writing down a serial number. IMO, you are wasting your time and energy.

        • ATFAgentBob.. I wish you good luck on getting your pistol back, but in reality I sure wouldn’t be holding my breath about it happening though!

        • Doug I’m not holding my breath all I can do is hope the tweeker that jacked my mother in law’s ride is dumb enough to pawn the thing or it gets recovered in a meth bust. Until then I’m waiting to purchase a good replacement. I keep all that info on my guns in case I have to file an insurance claim on them (like I did with the Ruger) and to add to my copy of the police report. That information also helps me track what I got in the arsenal and what got sold or traded. Which comes in handy when a gun I used to own (SCCY 9mm) gets recovered at a crime scene after being stolen from the guy that bought it after I traded it on my 1911.

  8. Serial numbers bring the same on different guns is nothing new. Think of all the 1911s made during WWII by what 5 different different factories repeating numbers. Nothing new here.

  9. I view serial numbers on guns like a car’s VIN number minus the ability to get a full history from the internet. It can tell me what I’m looking at exactly, where it was made (in the case of some older guns), and when it was made. Using websites like hotguns or some of the other stolen gun databases we have access to is a hit or miss proposition, some guns aren’t reported stolen till after the fact and some never make it into that database.

  10. I’ve YET to hear of a stamped number on a firearm that can stop a bullet from being fired. Democrats and their laws be damned!

    • Oh, come on, you’re in Cali so you should know that ghost guns are extra super deadly and can fire a 30 caliber clip in under a second.

      • Or how about those highly deadly black rifles with super-duper deadly kill all people in the vicinity California only features like hand-grips and oh dear me, flash suppressors? LOL

      • I thought they “mow down” everything?
        Isn’t just like the movies? They never run out of ammo and absolutely everything dies or is destroyed!

  11. Oh, come on, you’re in Cali so you should know that ghost guns are extra super deadly and can fire a 30 caliber clip in under a second.

  12. If the slack jawed, idiot children at the Wall Street Journal are frightened by “The Rise of Untraceable Ghost Guns”, then someone should tell these Special Princess Snowflakes, they are Friendly Ghost Guns. Wooooooooooo…

  13. Totally OT but I received the Ghost Gun pictured above as a Christmas present back in the late 70’s!! You’d slide small strips of clear plastic with ghosts drawn on them then illuminate them on a wall. The trigger hand would move crosshairs around the image and a trigger pull would punch a hole in the ghost. Damn, haven’t thought of that thing in ages!!

  14. I heard this story on WSJ’s podcast this morning and believe it is the most stupid article I’ve ever heard. The author whined about a “loop hole” that allowed people to buy blocks of metal and mill them out to build a gun. He then said criminals couldn’t be bothered to have straw buyers go to NV to buy their guns. Instead, they mill out 80% lowers – as if THAT is way more convenient. Next, he talked about a guy who had a machine shop who was turning out mass quantities of ghost guns. Hello! If you have a machine shop you can mill out a 0% lower. Finally, he mentioned that CA is demanding people with ghost guns have to get serial numbers. Uh, yeah, I bet the folks who just SOLD ghost guns (illegal) to FELONS (illegal) would comply. Typical liberal anti-gun BS. Solve “gun violence” by imposing laws that depend on the criminals to obey in order to work.


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