Over 1000% Increase in 'Ghost Gun' Use in Crimes From 2017 to 2021, Report Shows

Black gun on black surface surrounded by bullets

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives released a report featuring the rise of untraceable firearms, also known as “ghost guns.”

The use of privately made firearms (PMFs), commonly known as “ghost guns," increased by over 1000% from 2017 to 2021, a report from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) showed.

Ghost guns are firearms that can be made from parts bought online or made with a 3D printer and are untraceable since they have not been required to have a serial number, according to the National Firearms Commerce and Trafficking Assessment (NFCTA), conducted by the ATF.

Due to the untraceable nature of the guns, their involvement in crime has increased. In 2017, 1,629 PMFs were reported by local law enforcement agencies to ATF for tracing, and by 2021 that number had risen to 19,273, according to the report

Of the 37,980 PMFs recovered and submitted to the ATF between 2017 to 2021, almost 60% (22,546) of them were pistols, the report showed. The second most-recovered gun were rifles at 14.3% (5,446), stated the report. 

The assessment attributes the rise in both the increased use of ghost guns in crimes and also to the increase in law enforcement agencies submitting the recovered weapons to ATF for attempted tracing. 

In an attempt to regulate the previously untraceable guns, a federal law was implemented in August 2022, that requires FFL dealers and gunsmiths to include a serial number on the 3D-printed guns, according to the report.  

“In 2021, I directed ATF to begin work on the first study of criminal gun trafficking in over two decades, and today’s report is yet another historic step in that effort,” said Attorney General Merrick B. Garland in a press release. “The Justice Department will continue to use every tool at its disposal to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and save lives.”

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