Federal agents in northern California are investigating what they say is a growing black market for weapons being manufactured and illegally sold throughout the region, reports the Sacramento Bee. While the San Bernardino terrorist attack and other mass shootings have brought cries for greater restrictions on gun sales by firearms dealers, homemade guns change hands with no government oversight of any kind. They are known as “ghost guns.” Assembled in homes and shops, they are sold without serial numbers or other identifying features. Federal officials say hundreds of such weapons and silencers have been seized in a series of ongoing undercover operations.
It is legal, and relatively easy – especially for someone with machinist skills – to purchase and assemble all the parts needed for an AR-15 rifle. It is a felony to sell or trade such a weapon. “We've had more of these cases in Northern California than in other parts of the country,” said Graham Barlowe of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in Sacramento. “There are a lot of firearms enthusiasts in Northern California, so it may be that the principals found each other more often. All the elements are here: demand, know-how and cross-pollination of enthusiasts and criminals.” Gun enthusiasts dispute that there is a large-scale problem with such weapons in California, noting there are 40 million to 50 million guns in the state, and the arrests being announced reflect a tiny fraction of that figure. Sam Paredes of Gun Owners of California says, “People have been manufacturing their own guns under federal law for decades. It's perfectly legal for you to manufacture a firearm for your own personal use.”