Loophole allows people to assemble 'ghost guns'

Untraceable weapons can be obtained with no background check, no ID

By Jeff Weinsier - Investigative Reporter

MIAMI - A Local 10 News investigation exposes what some are calling a serious and dangerous loop hole in the law.

You could be "America's Most Wanted" and get your hands on high-powered untraceable guns.

There is no background check and no identification required.

The most disturbing thing, to many, is that these guns have no serial number, so there is no way to trace them. 

Local 10 News investigative reporter Jeff Weinsier, with the help of a friend, was able to assemble an AR-15 in a day.

All they needed was a credit card and an internet search and the "kit" was ordered.

Everything needed to assemble the AR-15 was there.

"These items are out on the streets and our deputies deal with these weapons all the time. It's mind boggling," Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel said.

They are called "ghost guns."

The lower receiver comes 80 percent complete. They milled and drilled the remaining 20 percent, making it technically homemade.

Because they come unassembled and incomplete, the assembler becomes the manufacturer, and the Department of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms doesn't classify "ghost guns" as a firearm.

No serial number is required, and it's 100 percent legal.

Even gun enthusiasts are concerned.

"Having a gun without serial numbers on it is just wrong," said Roy Gosley, a firearms instructor who owns a gun shop in downtown Fort Lauderdale.

"I'm not saying I agree with more laws. I'm not saying we need more laws. But this is bypassing what we already have in place that seems to be working fairly well," Gosley said.

Walter Philbrick is a retired homicide sergeant who used to own a gun store.

"When a gun would be used in a homicide, I could trace the gun. Who owned it? Who bought it? Where they bought it? This is untraceable and what gun store?" Philbrick said.

Philbrok said anyone can get their hands on a ghost gun.

"A convicted felon, mass murderer, terrorist -- doesn't matter," he said.

Several noted crimes have been committed with ghost guns. 

John Zawahri's failure to pass a background check didn't stop him from and building an assault rifle himself. 

In 2013, at Santa Monica College he fired 100 rounds and killed five people before police fatally shot him.

Last November, Kevin Neal used two home-built semiautomatic rifles to kill his wife and four others Northern California.

The (Gabby) Gifford Law Center to prevent gun violence has asked internet service providers to shut down websites, but it hasn't happened.

There are proponents.

"It is liberating for someone who wants to build a gun for their own defense and personal use who might be on a fixed income," said Alexander Roubian of the New Jersey Second Amendment Society. "There has never been an epidemic with criminals building their own firearms, and if criminals want to acquire firearms as they do now, they find ways of doing it."

But even in the right hands, these guns could wind up in the wrong hands.

"If you make it for yourself and you go to the range and have fun with it and one day someone breaks in your house and steals it, there is no way to report it stolen with no serial number of tracing purposes," Nikko Shoureas, a gunsmith in Davie, said.

Local 10 News had its AR-15 ghost gun crushed. It won't become part of any statistic or crime.

So what do South Florida lawmakers think about this alleged loophole?

Local 10 News contacted the offices of U.S. Reps. Frederica Wilson, D-Miami Gardens, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston and Carlos Curbelo, R-Kendall.

“This is yet another disturbing and dangerous loophole in this nation’s lax gun-safety laws," Wasserman Schultz said. "And It’s one of the many problems that Congress needs to confront, but under the current Republican leadership, likely never will.” 

Wilson's office said the congresswoman is doing research on the issue and will then comment.

In a returned email to Local 10 News, Curbelo's office said the congressman didn't have time to talk.

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