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How untraceable ghost guns are impacting crime in the Twin Cities

How untraceable ghost guns are impacting crime in the Twin Cities
How untraceable ghost guns are impacting crime in the Twin Cities 03:47

BROOKLYN PARK, Minn. -- It's a kind of fire sale with dealers rushing to sell "ghost guns" before the federal government takes action next week.

Ghost guns are made without serial numbers, meaning law enforcement can't trace them when they are used in a crime. Now the federal government is taking action.

In the Twin Cities, ghost guns are having an impact on crime. 

"Violent crime has been something that has really plagued our community, we've seen a big uptick in violent crime, we have unprecedented gun violence," said Commander Elliot Faust with Brooklyn Park Police. 

The guns used in a growing number of crimes in Brooklyn Park, a suburb north of Minneapolis with around 86,000 people, are untraceable.

"We had a shooting last night in a city park. We had a shooting on Saturday night where over 40 rounds were fired. We recovered a ghost gun in that shooting, we also recovered another gun with a switch and capable of fully-automatic fire," Faust said. "We're seeing it on almost a nightly basis." 

The police commander says what worries him most is the age of the people caught with ghost guns and where they're find them.

"I think that is one of our biggest concerns. It seems like a lot of these guns are falling into the hands of the youth...There is some sort of underground market that is selling these un-serialized guns, and it doesn't take much of an imagination to see how that could be: you can order these guns en mass, ship them to you doorstep, do a little bit of work, create a fully-functional firearm, and you can sell it to whoever you want, " Faust said.

How quickly these ghost guns have become a problem is startling for law enforcement.

In 2020, two ghost guns were recovered in Brooklyn Park. In 2021, 14 guns were recovered, and so far this year, 17 ghost guns have been recovered, Faust said, adding: "And we are only part way through the year." 

Brooklyn Park is not the only city in Minnesota seeing a rise in crimes involving ghost guns. Minneapolis and St. Paul are also recovering more of these untraceable weapons, and it's a problem across the country, too.

That's why on Aug. 24, new federal regulations will require companies selling gun kits to have serial numbers on the parts and do background checks on anyone buying those parts.

"So this new law that is going into effect will cut down a lot on how the retail market is and the ease of purchase for these," Faust said.

Many online companies are posting countdowns to the new regulations and pushing sales.

CBS News Investigates found Bob and Hugh making ghost guns inside their California garage. Once assembled, the guns look identical to those sold in stores, except there's no serial number to trace them if used in a crime.

"Since 2016 to 2021, nationally, there's about 45,000 suspected ghost guns, and we can only trace about .98 percent of those, and of those that we did correlate to crime scenes, there are about 635 homicides related to those, "said ATF Special Agent in Charge Jeffrey Reed.

Another issue: 3D printers.

The assistant agent in charge of the St. Paul ATF says 3D printed gun parts are flooding the market, and they too are untraceable.

"There are people with 3D printers that are printing the lowers and then ordering the parts for them to complete the firearms and then those people, criminally, and what were interested in, will take those firearms and, criminally, distribute to prohibited persons as you mentioned, gang members, or persons involved in violent crime within our communities," Reed said.

Federal officials hope these new regulations will help stop the use of ghost guns in violent crime.

 And for those who choose to ignore the new laws.   

"We are targeting you, we are coming after the people that are illegally possessing firearms and are doing bad things with them," Faust said.

The ATF is partnering with state and local law enforcement agencies. Together, they'll find ghost guns and those making them available to people who can't buy guns legally.

Their efforts will ramp up when new laws take effect on Wednesday.

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