INDIANAPOLIS — Untraceable guns are a growing concern for local and federal law-enforcement, as technology evolves and people come up with new ways of obtaining or changing firearms.
‘Glock switches’ and ‘ghost guns,’ both are nicknames. One is for a 3D printed attachment on a handgun. The other is a gun you can assemble on your own, and both are untraceable in their own ways.
Bryan Muehlberger said he lost his daughter Gracie, to the shooting at Saugus High School, in November 2019.
“So it was very very hard. I’m trying to hold it together now,” Muehlberger said.
Even though it happened in California, he’s from the Midwest and his son attends Purdue University. So now he’s spreading the message across the country about the dangers of untraceable guns, even as a gun owner himself.
“First time I heard the world ghost gun, was literally, probably twenty minutes after hearing that my daughter had died,” he said.
So, what’s a ghost gun?
They’re real weapons that are sometimes 3D printed or made from parts or entire kits that require some assembly.
They’re untraceable because they don’t come with a serial number and they’re easily bought online, built-in 30 minutes, with no background check required.
Muehlberger said he even bought one in his daughter’s name after she was killed with one.
“If a dead girl can buy a gun online, we’ve probably got a loophole that’s broken,” Muehlberger said.
According to the ATF, around 23,000 ‘ghost guns’ were reported to them between 2016 and the end of 2021.
Here in Indiana, the ATF said ‘ghost guns’ or ‘Privately Made Firearms’ are not a big issue, in part due to the relatively relaxed gun laws in our state.
“There’s really not a demand to manufacture a firearm, when it’s just as easy to buy one that’s already been completed,” said the Acting Special Agent In-Charge, for the ATF’s Columbus Field Division, Travis Riddle.
However, he said when local law enforcement finds ghost guns at crime scenes, they report it to the system called E-trace which is what the ATF uses.
“Now our success rate is less than one percent on ‘ghost-guns’. With a new definition change, hopefully those numbers go up," Riddle said.
President Joe Biden announced new legislation would require anyone who assembles these guns to register it with the Department of Justice, but to Riddle and the Indiana Crime Guns Task Force, our state has a bigger unknown and untraceable issue.
Lieutenant Ron Brezik is with IMPD and the Indiana Crime Guns Task Force. He said they’re seeing 3D printed attachments like these. They change a handgun into a rapid-fire machine gun.
“We’ve got to get a lid on it pretty quickly,” Brezik said.
It’s called a Glock switch because it’s mainly attached to a Glock handgun.
“Guns in general, in the wrong hands are a big concern for us, but a fully automatic weapon in the wrong person’s hands can be devastating," Brezik said.
He said that people are selling these unmarked pieces around our region sometimes for $400 apiece.
WRTV asked, “Is that allowed?” Brezik said, “Absolutely not.”
Riddle said ATF guidelines don’t account for the new 3D attachments.
“That is the machine gun, it’s not the gun that shoots the bullets, it’s this little piece of plastic,” Riddle said.
It’s gun policies, chasing technology, and regardless of the regulations, solving gun violence is an ever-changing challenge.
“There’s laws against those crimes, but that doesn’t keep them from committing those crimes, right,” Riddle said.
It’s a challenge that everyday people pay the price for.
“It’s access to firearms by those that should not, at their age, at their mental capacity, or because of a felonious background have access to firearms,” Muehlberger said.
Biden announced the federal policy will go into effect on August 9th.
Meaning these kits qualify as “firearms” under the Gun Control Act and that manufacturers of those kits must become licensed and include serial numbers on the kits’ frame or receiver.
Also, commercial sellers must become federally licensed and run background checks before the sale.
However, where do you draw the line with serializing gun parts?
An executive for the Gun Owners of America issued a statement stating it will sue Biden's ATF to ‘’halt the implementation of this rule.’’
The National Rifle Association also issued a statement saying in part: “This action sends the wrong message to violent criminals because the ban will not affect them.”
In honor of their daughter, Gracie, Muehlberger and his family set up a foundation in her name, to help empower other kids connect and realize their value.
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