Inside look: ATF Charlotte Field Division vault of illegal firearms, including ghost guns

From 2020 to 2021, local and state law enforcement agencies seized more than 400 ghost guns in North Carolina.
More and more we're hearing about local law enforcement seizing illegal ghost guns.
Published: Aug. 12, 2022 at 6:40 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Ghost guns – getting in the hands of criminals.

More and more we’re hearing about local law enforcement seizing illegal ghost guns.

At the same time, ATF Charlotte says more and more of these illegal, and for the most part untraceable, firearms are showing up at crime scenes involving youth.

CMPD arrested three teens who they say robbed a person at gunpoint early Wednesday morning.

We’re told one of the teens had a ghost gun.

This past April, we reported on a shooting at Romare Bearden Park.

Police say an 18-year-old suspect admitted to having a ghost gun.

They’ve been a problem on the west coast and are becoming more prevalent on the east coast, especially in North Carolina, authorities said.

State, local and federal law enforcement has seized more than 700 illegal firearms that are being held inside a vault at the ATF Charlotte Field Division office - some of them ghost guns.

“This has become the problem, because these ghost guns are showing up on the streets of Charlotte,” Anthony Spotswood said.

Spotswood is the Assistant Special Agent in Charge of ATF Charlotte Field Division.

Some of the firearms can be made with kits found online – pieced together through separate parts or created entirely by a 3-D printer.

“Because there’s no serial number on this plate, it’s the first indication that this is a ghost gun,” Spotswood said.

That’s part of why he says it’s so hard for law enforcement to trace these firearms.

Spotswood said ghost guns are often landing in the hands of people who want to commit violent crime.

“What we’re finding is ghost guns and these kits that come and you’re able to make ghost guns from are so readily available that teenagers and young people are going online, buying the components of these, and it’s very easy to build so they’re building them, sometimes in their bedroom,” he said.

Spotswood said that in North Carolina from 2020 to 2021, local and state law enforcement agencies seized more than 400 ghost guns – a 700 percent increase in that time frame.

New rules are expected to take effect later this month, which include a requirement to have serial numbers on these guns.

“I don’t only work in this community, but I live in this community, so one of the things I look forward to is anything that we can possibly use, any technology that we can use, any new rulings that we can use, that can help us in decreasing crime,” Spotswood said.

Spotswood says some smaller law enforcement agencies may have these ghost guns in their vault and may not know what they are.

To get ahead of that issue, he said the ATF holds training to help local law enforcement identify these ghost guns.

Related: Ghost guns in Charlotte and new federal regulations

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