Biden ghost guns
Props used in President Biden's Rose Garden announcement of ATF "ghost gun" regulation. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
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By Lee Williams

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is counting the number of Google searches for “ghost guns” claiming that the data supports their theory that homemade firearms are skyrocketing in popularity among criminals. The “ghost gun” crisis, which the ATF itself ginned up, appears to be nothing more than the agency’s latest and most desperate attempt to increase its dwindling budget.

The ATF’s newfound use of internet search trends as a crimefighting tool was revealed in a recently released 306-page report titled: “National Firearms Commerce and Trafficking Assessments: Firearms in Commerce.”

In April 2021, Joe Biden and Attorney General Merrick Garland ordered ATF to produce a “comprehensive report on firearms commerce and trafficking.” What they got was a bit of dealer and industry data mixed with supposition and theories that were both light on actual facts and previously shown to be false – all slickly packaged into a plea for more money, more agents and more authority.

The report repeats bogus “ghost gun” claims, which have already been debunked by dozens of senior law enforcement sources and a congressional whistleblower. In other words, ATF submitted a report to the President and to the Attorney General of the United States containing information it knew was false.

The report also cites how the agency is struggling to keep up with the staffing levels of other federal law enforcement agencies, especially FBI and DEA, which could explain why they’re stretching the truth a bit in their report. Some of its claims are laughable. However, nothing in the entire 306 pages is as ridiculous as the amateurish research methods they used to create and support their fictitious “ghost gun” theories.

Google and media data

Americans have been legally making guns in their homes since before there was a United States of America. ATF admits this in their report — kind of — stating that the Gun Control Act of 1968 “does not regulate the making of firearms by private individuals who are not engaged in the business of manufacturing or dealing in firearms.” After that brief disclaimer, however, the report rarely mentions the legality of homemade guns, which ATF calls “Privately Made Firearms” or PMFs.

The internet, the report states, “provides manufacturers of these technologies, plans, and parts direct access to a mass market. To illustrate this point, one need only conduct an internet search and review the number of results and speed at which the results are returned.”

The authors entered five PMF phrases into a Google search box: “80% Receivers, Ghost Gun kit, AR-15 receiver, 3D printed gun and Polymer 80.”

“The Google searches returned more than 5 million pages of search results and more than 130 thousand marketing and instructional videos,” the report states. However, it never puts this number into context. For example, my search for Bigfoot produced 39 million results. A search for UFO Abduction insurance produced more than 760,000 results.

The authors also searched for news stories about “ghost guns,” and to no one’s surprise they found a few, which they also claim proves they are increasingly used in crimes: “The increase in news stories is reflective of the increase in PMF use in crimes and PMF recoveries by law enforcement,” the report states. It does not explain how the authors made this leap in logic.

Debunked numbers

The entire crackdown on “ghost guns” is based on a hoax that has been promulgated by ATF and Joe Biden.

Biden ghost gun
President Joe Biden (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

“Last year alone, law enforcement reported approximately 20,000 suspected ghost guns to be – to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. That’s a tenfold increase in these ghost guns from 2016. Tenfold in five years,” Biden said last April. “These guns are weapons of choice for many criminals. We’re going to do everything we can to deprive them of that choice and, when we find them, put them in jail for a long, long time. Law enforcement is sounding the alarms. Our communities are paying the price. And we’re acting.”

The “ghost gun” drama was started by Carlos A. Canino, the former Special Agent in Charge (SAC) of the ATF’s Los Angeles Field Division. In 2020, anti-gun activists asked Canino about the prevalence of homemade firearms in California. An earlier study said 30% of the guns recovered by ATF in California were unserialized “ghost guns,” but Canino said the real numbers were actually much higher. “Forty-one percent, so almost half our cases we’re coming across are these ‘ghost guns,’” Canino said.

A story by the Second Amendment Foundation’s Investigative Journalism Project revealed that the ATF could not verify Canino’s comments.

“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,” an ATF spokesman admitted in an email.

After the story was published, a staff member for a U.S. Congressman came forward. This whistleblower, who asked that their name be withheld from publication, revealed even more problems about the ATF’s “ghost gun” numbers.

The whistleblower asked the U.S. Justice Department for “ghost gun” data, since the ATF falls under the DOJ’s purview.

“Because it is not currently a federal crime to own either a homemade firearm or a braced pistol, DOJ claims they do not have accurate/comprehensive databases to track their use in crimes. They compile information from state and local police units – but that information is only as good as what is reported,” the whistleblower said in an email.

To be clear, the Department of Justice told a U.S. Congressman’s staff member that their “ghost gun” data is neither accurate nor comprehensive.

“Despite that,” the whistleblower said in an email, “the DOJ sent a document stating: ‘Privately made firearms (PMFs), known as ghost guns, are a rapidly growing contributor to violent crime. From January 1, 2016, through December 31, 2020, there were approximately 23,906 suspected PMFs reported to ATF as having been recovered by law enforcement, including in connection with 325 homicides or attempted homicides. The trendline is troubling: in 2016, local law enforcement reported to ATF 1,750 suspected PMFs; by 2020, that number had grown to 8,712, an increase of over 400 percent.”

Ghost gun serial number
The ATF considers this a “ghost gun.” (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

This is the same data ATF submitted in their report to Biden and Attorney General Garland – data that the DOJ said is “neither accurate nor comprehensive,” – data the ATF knew was false.


The authors who wrote this report are not shy about the real reason for the 306-page document.

“Over the past three decades, ATF has not been funded and staffed commensurate with staffing increases received by other DOJ law enforcement agencies. In 1973, ATF had 3,829 employees, including 1,622 special agents and 826 industry operations investigators. In 2022, ATF has 5,410 employees including 2,653 special agents and 760 industry operations investigators. This represents a 41% increase in total employees.

By contrast, in 1973 the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) had 2,775 employees of which 1,470 were special agents. In 2021, DEA employed 9,848 employees of which 4,649 were special agents. This represents a 254% increase. Similarly, in 1973, the FBI had 20,527 employees. In 2021, the FBI employed 35,842 employees. This represents a 75% increase.”

It’s clear the ATF is looking for a 21st Century mission – something more relevant than regulating untaxed cigarettes or bootleg corn liquor – so they’ve turned to “ghost guns,” a fiction which Biden and the legacy media are only too happy to help promote.

Besides, the dozens of senior law enforcement professionals across the country I have spoken to say “ghost guns” are not a problem in their jurisdictions. The ATF, they say, must be conflating homemade guns and factory-made firearms that have had their serial numbers illegally removed to come up with their large numbers, or, more likely, ATF is just making the numbers up, hoping to increase their budget.

The “research” methods ATF used for this report indicate nothing is out of bounds. Claiming there are now more plans on the internet for “ghost guns” so there must be more “ghost guns” makes no sense. There are more plans online now for atomic bombs, time machines and the perfect Bundt cake than there were years ago. Does this mean they too are growing in popularity?

Basing any conclusion on media stories is legendarily dumb. I spent more than 20 years in the legacy media. The vast majority of my former colleagues could not articulate the difference between a rifle and a shotgun. Ask them anything about “ghost guns” and they wouldn’t have the first clue.

The ATF has always been something of a laughingstock – a pariah among federal law enforcement agencies. That they would now invent a fake problem and then hold their hand out to Congress for more money to fix it shouldn’t come as a surprise.

After all, this is the same federal agency that believed pressuring a retired Green Beret into sawing off a shotgun barrel, laying siege to 76 men, women and children and running guns into Mexico were sound law enforcement strategies, despite the number of lives lost as a result.


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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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  1. We need to ban all guns. Guns are killing people left and right. And if we can’t ban them, at least we need to legislate universal background checks and and universal gun owner registry. This way we can keep track of who has what and when, and then surveil them, all of them, continuously. Further, we need safe space gun storage laws. Just like we need safe spaces. Guns need safe spaces. And when I say safe, I mean with a trigger lock on it, in a locked box, in a locked safe, in a locked room, behind a locked house. Because saving lives matter. Shooting Victims Lives Matter (SVLM). I’m going to start an organization called SVLM, please donate, because I have some mansions to buy for me and my family.

    Lastly, this situation is gun owners fault. Because some gun somewhere else shot someone, gun owners who didn’t shoot someone, need to be punished. Now look at this bloody shirt and cry with me.

      • Yep, and his prose is far more readable than the real dacian, since he is far less likely to spew forth a five hundred word post. Concise isn’t a term that one would apply to the real dacian, nor is humorous.

      • We could tell it wasn’t the original, authentic dacian . . . he came close to being comprehensible, unlike you, dacian the stupid. Can we get the “fake” dacian to comment, and let you devote ALL your time to your circle jerk??? This forum would be improved immeasurably by that. Please get right on that, dacian the stupid. I’m sure that, for the small price of half your Soros-bucks, the “fake” dacian would keep us entertained with inanity equal to or exceeding your vomitous output, and you could concentrate on your onanism.

      • the core issue here is loss of control…something this govt. abhors…but blame gun owners who bragged about this option as well…far better to keep our mouths closed about this option…now that it has become widely publicized there is the possibility of abuse….and further regulation….

    • There are more plans online now for atomic bombs, time machines and the perfect Bundt cake than there were years ago. Does this mean they too are growing in popularity?

      A time-travelling, explosive dessert? Count me in!

  2. Now a comment from the real Dacian.

    The article is ridiculous its arguing that if we have 999 murders with ghost guns and not 1,000 than the numbers are acceptable to the Fanatics of the Far Right. Try explaining that nonsense to the grieving relatives of the victims that were gunned down in a pool of blood and carnage.


    Are ghost guns frequently used in violent crime?????????????????????????

    Yes, ghost guns are increasing being used in shootings across the country.

    In July 2020, an individual who was prohibited from possessing guns allegedly murdered two people in Pennsylvania using a homemade 9mm handgun.9

    In November 2019, a 16-year-old shot five of his classmates at Saugus High School in California—two of them fatally—using a homemade handgun, before fatally shooting himself.10

    In August 2019, a shooter used a homemade gun kit to build a .223-caliber firearm that he later used to fire 41 shots in 32 seconds in a bar in Dayton, Ohio, shooting 26 people and killing nine.11

    In 2017, in Northern California, a man prohibited from possessing firearms ordered kits to build AR-15-style rifles. On November 13, he initiated a series of shootings that began with fatally shooting his wife at home, followed by a rampage the next day during which he fired at multiple people in several different locations, including an elementary school, killing five people and injuring dozens more.12

    In 2013, a shooter opened fire in Santa Monica, California, shooting 100 rounds, killing five people, and injuring several others at a community college using a homemade AR-15 rifle. Reporting indicates the shooter had previously tried to purchase a firearm from a licensed gun dealer and failed a background check, potentially indicating why he opted to order parts to build a gun instead.13

    Law enforcement officials around the country are sounding the alarm about the dramatic increase in the recovery of ghost guns at crime scenes in their communities. ATF reported that approximately 10,000 ghost guns were recovered across the country in 2019.14 Ghost guns have also been illegally trafficked to Mexico.15 In addition:

    In 2019, Washington, D.C., police recovered 115 ghost guns, a 360 percent increase from 2018, when they recovered 25 ghost guns, and a 3,733 percent increase from 2017, when only three such firearms were recovered.16

    In 2019, ATF reported recovering 117 ghost guns in Maryland with almost 25 percent recovered from Baltimore alone. Ghost gun recoveries in the state then tripled in 2020.17
    According to law enforcement in Philadelphia, ghost gun recoveries in that city rose 152 percent from 2019 to 2020.18

    The special agent in charge of the ATF Los Angeles Field Division reported in January 2021 that 41 percent of the division’s cases involve ghost guns, and a May 2019 statewide analysis in California found that 30 percent of all guns recovered in connection with a crime in the state did not have serial numbers.19

    In addition, an investigation by The Trace found that ghost guns are increasingly becoming the weapon of choice for violent white supremacists and anti-government extremists.20

    In conclusion the ATF is a law unto itself and as in the past it rules at 8:00 AM and it is then a new “regulation” (disingenuous term for new law) is now the law of the land at 5:00 PM.

    No Judge Conservative or Liberal will declare the ATF ruling illegal or Unconstitutional because ghost guns are a danger to the people of the country and even the much ballyhooed Scalia decision with the usual double talk and smoke and mirrors declared “The Courts had the right to regulate firearms” (slick disingenuous term for ban or restrict firearms).

    In conclusion your right to own a weapon rests with the rulings of the courts, not the Constitution, and history has proven this reality like it or not.

    No sane person would want ghost guns legal and no other civilized nation tolerates them.

    • “Now a comment from the real Dacian.”

      Oh damn, I was SO hoping we could avoid that!! But at least we knew it was you, dacian the stupid . . . long-winded, illiterate, uneducated, ahistorical, illogical, false-to-fact, irrational, ungrammatical, and generally pig-ignorant. I would “thank” you for your “contribution”, but . . . I’m not even slightly grateful for your “effort”.

      F*** off, dacian. F*** ALL the way off.

    • dacian, the Dunderhead, We do not favor murder of any kind.
      Here is a fact for you, The ATFE is claiming that any gun with a scratched out serial number is a “ghost gun”. That is not what normal people call a ghost gun.
      Again, you have perverted the truth. But this is your way.

  3. I know this particular issue is a burr under the saddle for POTG, but name one bureaucracy that doesn’t fidget its numbers to get a larger budget. How else are they going to grow? And accumulate more power?

    • Gadsden,

      Not disagreeing with your comment, but since when does being “common practice” make it right?? And particularly when it comes to an agency whose very purpose is inherently unconstitutional????

      F*** the ATF, and the spavined, swaybacked horse they rode in on. If the Republicans have ANY spine, when they finally take control of both houses of Congress, and the White House, they will abolish the ATF, the Dept. of Education, the Dept. of Energy, the IRS, the FBI, and a few dozen others they’ve (unconstitutionally) burdened us with.

    • F-Troop was caught before padding it’s offices with extra agents. Why? The more agents reporting to a manager, the higher their grade, and the higher salary and benefits.

      Looks like someone wants to improve their grade.

      Don’t forget F-Troop also count untracked guns as ghost guns.

    • except that the quest for funding has led them to commit some of the greatest law enforcement fiacos in our history…..

  4. Last night Mrs. Haz and I were watching a TV show (we only watch a small selection of pre-recorded shows), and as we were about fast forward through a particular commercial break, we watched an election campaign ad for CA A.G. Bonta. The two major topics he’s pushing are his (1) support for abortion and (2) campaign against “ghost guns”. I took issue with the way he worded his narration on the guns…he twisted truthful facts around to make it sound like PMFs are illegal, the way he conflated the term “ghost guns” (a term which our former A.G. Becerra originally coined and is now used nationwide) with “illegal guns” (which encompass any factory gun that has had its serial number filed off). Any person not familiar with guns would therefore perceive that PMFs are illegal, bad, and possessed only by criminals.

    I despise politicians.

    • Unserialized firearms ARE illegal in California. Except for black powder ones. The law requires obtaining a serial number from the CaDOJ with a background check before starting a build. I seem to recall that they wanted everyone who owned old firearms that were not serialized by the factory to have them engraved with a DOJ serial number. I don’t know how that went.

      • Bonta didn’t refer to unserialized guns, Mark. He simply used the term “ghost guns” and then said “illegal” in the next sentence while the words “ghost guns” remained visible on the screen. He was conflating PMFs with crime, and using word-dancing to push the narrative that owners of PMFs are criminals. Otherwise, if we were talking solely about non-serialized guns, some of my pre-1968 rifles don’t have any S/Ns, yet are legal in CA.

        Four years ago, non-serialized PMFs were legal in CA. Suddenly they became a political issue and a year later that same gun made you a criminal per the CA P.C. Did you commit a crime? Or did CA simply move the line behind you while you went on with your normal, productive, otherwise law-abiding life and later call you a criminal for not being behind the line anymore?

        Remember Ayn Rand’s excerpt talking about how the State can only exercise control over criminals, so it focuses much of its energy on making as many criminals as it can to justify its own existence…

      • As an follow-up to this train of thought, my own PMFs are technically “ghost guns” to Bonta even though they’re legally serialized, for the very reason that there is no registration or paper trail for them. The government doesn’t know what or where they are (any alphabet letter agencies trolling this site can only read this and learn that I have them, albeit legally), or how many. There are no records in CA’s AFS or the S/N database for PMFs CADOJ absurdly claims is not a registration database.

        This whole thing is a needless mess that CA Dems are stirring up for political points with their voter base. Somehow, other Free America States that allow PMFs and have no registration aren’t falling into the Abyss from “ghost gun” crime. Yet Bonta is trying to convince voters that they’re a scourge to our society.

      • What about the firearms that were made before the law? What about manufactured firearms sold before 1968 – plenty of those were manufactured without serial numbers? Is the law in Ca retroactive?

      • Wait a minute! Criminals are not serializing their home built firearms? But that’s against the law! I’m serializing mine, but they aren’t serializing theirs? What kind of law is this?

  5. including defaced items is wholly misleading. there are serialized, unserialized and defaced- that’s it.
    traceability might reunite things with the original or last owner but not much else.
    if i remove a serial number i’ve made an illegal fararm, not a personally manufactured one. they need an additional category: pdf, personally defaced fararm.

  6. If someone does a search for an 80% does not make them a criminal. It does make the person or persons behind such search based nonsense dirtbags. They talk about so called “Ghost Guns” being a huge problem but they do not offer tangible proof.

    To complete a “Ghost Gun” from scratch you really need a drill press and other tools and the last time I was in Harbor Freight there were no shortages of drills, drill presses, calipers. etc. It is silly to think some criminal buffoon who thinks a screwdriver is made for prying open windows is going to purchase an 80% and in 30 minutes have firearm ready to rock and roll. Or a criminal buffoon who purchases an AR 80% and tries to hog out the mag well and assemble the weapon in 30 minutes…It ain’t happening Jim Crow Gun Control drama queen joe et al.

    • Criminals have no problem manufacturing pharmaceuticals in illicit laboratories; I think they can probably find their way around a drill press too.

  7. Well they made g g g ghost gunz👻👻👻 illegal in ILLannoy. I’m sure in Chiraq crime will go waaaay down😎🤓🙄

  8. What happened, did they buy a 3-D printer and a CNC machine, start manufacturing “ghost guns”, and then distribute them to drug lords so that scary “ghost guns” would start showing up at crime scenes?

    Would anyone be surprised if it turned out they did such a thing, at this point?

    • I would, it would involve work. I am sure there are competent and hardworking agents in the ATF but we do not get to see them in my area of NY where they could afford to lose about as much weight as FormerParatrooper seems to keep in lead for casting.

  9. The gun Community needs to face reality. Someone eventually is going to be appointed, and approved by the Senate to head the BATFE. And perhaps it would be best that we support someone, who at least shows interest, in working with the gun industry in a positive way.

    From 2021

    “Acting Director of the ATF and Fort Worth Native Shares His Journey With Hometown Students”

    Richardson weighed in on the new Texas permitless carry law.

    “The states have the independence to pass whatever laws they choose,” Richardson said. “When you look again at the seconded amendment that’s a right of all the people. So, we are not here to say oh my goodness you can’t do this with a gun. What you can’t do is you can’t commit a criminal act with a firearm.”

    I think Mr Richardson would be a very good ATF director for the gun community. He certainly would be better than the candidates the Democrats are going to put up at this point. He seems like a bit of a tenth amendment guy to me.

    • Maybe our Republican representatives will act proactively and look out for our interests.

      That’s my joke for today.

  10. The atf+e did not grow at a slow rate, the dea and fbi grew way to much. They all need substantially trimmed, kinda like trimming poison ivy, until all gone.

    • the problem with these agencies is the incompetents are often promoted just to get them out of the way of those who can actually do the work…but that means the former are making decisions and forming policies that often affect the latter….

  11. ………… the ATF is using the New York method of counting ghost guns and expects to be taken seriously?

  12. Could we pay them to NOT do their jobs and just quickly rubber stamp all of those forms for tax stamps?

    Other than the tax stamps, they could just go sip pina coladas on the beach and leave us alone.

  13. Well, I guess if that’s the case that internet queries are acceptable as evidence, we shouldbe able to initiate 25th amendment proceedings…. I know that just I alone google ” biden blunders” at least four or five times a week.

    • This was my thought also. We could all google variations of “illegal ATF actions” multiple times, straighten out the numbers back towards the truth against the algorithms, and make the ATF basement dwellers realize the jig is up.

  14. Remember the ATFE couldn’t know how to sell alcohol, tobacco, and firearms in a convenience store. The explosives is next door in the fireworks store that got blown up by someone holding a lit match.

  15. this agency was an outgrowth of treasury and their agents were often referred to as “T(ax) men”…chasing after unpaid taxes in the production and sale of alcohol and tobacco…[see: “Thunder Road”]…how they gradually evolved into to a gun-chasing agency is a long story that directly correlates with the rise of gun control laws and their divorce from treasury and their hook-up with the dept of justice….where they often became the problem child….

  16. I’m sure it’s not that simple. Whoever has dealt with statistics will understand how difficult it is to determine the authenticity of a given one. For example, based on the data on the resource with assignment help on statistic projects, even the format of statistical data analysis can be different. Despite the persuasiveness of the article, I would still not take it as authentic material.


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