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Ghost Gunner enables public to make semi-automatic weapons at home

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Various AR-15 rifles for sale in the shop at On Target shooting range in Laguna Niguel on Saturday, April 12 2014.
Stuart Palley/ KPCC
Various AR-15 weapons for sale in the shop at On Target shooting range in Laguna Niguel. The same weapon can be made using the Ghost Gunner machine.

A new machine called the Ghost Gunner, which can be used to manufacture unregistered, operational AR-15 weapons, has been released to the public. It sold out in a matter of days.

While the name Ghost Gun may sound like a toy, it actually refers to something much more serious.

It's a gun that can be made through a 3D printer or other type of machine--unregulated and unregistered.

Recently a new machine, called the Ghost Gunner was released to the public.

The Ghost Gunner can be used to manufacture operational semi-automatic AR-15 weapons.  It costs $1,200 and sold out in a matter of days.

For more, Take Two speaks with Adam Winkler, a Professor of Law at UCLA and author of the book, "Gunfight: The Battle over the Right to Bear Arms in America." 


What is this device?

They have a milling machine hooked up to a computer and just like a 3D printer it can use software to manufacture this key part of a military-style rifle or what you call lower receiver. So you buy a lower receiver that's already 80 percent completed and you use this machine to add in a few little holes and things and complete the receiver and it becomes just as effective as the kind of firearm you might buy in a gun store.

You make the lower receiver with this milling machine and then buy the other parts of the gun and you can compile it and put it together yourself in your own home.

What do you know about the company behind this device?

The company is called Defense Distributed. It’s a small company that's really becoming a leader in the do-it-yourself gun-making world. Last year the company unveiled the first 3D printed the gun. The guy behind this is a fellow named Cody Wilson, who is a self-described anarchist. And his goal is very much explicitly to undermine the law; to show the state can't control us in a world of technology. He's not just in this for the money. He's on a mission.

Doesn't a gun need other parts to complete it?

Yes, the lower receiver is the main operative part that has the firing mechanism and basically mechanics of the firearm. But you need other pieces too. You need a barrel for the bullet, you might need a handle or a trigger. But all of these pieces are easy to buy online and totally lawful to do. Once you combine them with the lower receiver however, they become a firearm.

Where does California law stand on this?

California and federal law allow these guns to be made. Homemade guns are nothing new but this kind of gunsmithing has traditionally required considerable expertise and expensive equipment. 

California lawmakers recently tried to crack down on the manufacturer of these ghost guns, but Jerry Brown vetoed the law, saying requiring these homemade guns to have a serial number wouldn't likely reduce gun violence.

What kinds of ethical issues does this raise for you?

It really raises questions about the practicality of gun control laws in a world where people can make their own guns. So much of our gun control is targeting industrial gun makers and licensed gun dealers and using them as the way to close off access to guns by criminals and the mentally ill. It's going to become a lot more difficult … and could provide new avenues for criminals and the mentally ill to get their hands on guns. 

As far as concern, there are so many guns out there anyway and if you really want to get a gun you can, right?

That's right. For those in the gun control community really worried about this development it's worthwhile putting it in some perspective. There's already 320 million guns in America and almost 20 million new guns purchased every year. So in light of those numbers, maybe having a few thousand or few hundred thousand self-made guns probably won't make a huge difference in gun violence.

Any chance California lawmakers are going to try to regulate this again?

I don't think California lawmakers are going to try again in the near future because Jerry Brown is in office for a while but we might see more reform efforts at the federal level or in other states.

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