Law enforcement worried about homemade ‘ghost guns’ on Charlotte streets

CHARLOTTE — Charlotte has experienced tragic and growing gun violence, and local officers said they are increasingly concerned about homemade weapons they’re finding on our streets.

Channel 9 anchor Allison Latos got a look at some “ghost guns” and learned there’s a nationwide push underway to track them.

At the moment, it’s completely legal to build these weapons, but authorities across the country are worried that one person’s hobby could end up in the wrong hands -- something that’s proving true in Charlotte.

Locked away in the vault at Charlotte’s Alcohol Law Enforcement offices, agents keep evidence and key pieces to criminal investigations.

“This is a 9mm P80,” said ALE Special Agent in Charge Omar Qureshi as he showed Allison a handgun.

To the average eye, it looks like a normal weapon -- but it’s a ghost gun.

“Normally, you’d have a serial number on the frame, the metal plate, or on the slide,” Qureshi said.

But this particular handmade firearm is missing that crucial identification.

Agents investigating underage alcohol sales at a university-area gas station in September 2019 said they found the ghost gun in Kaleb Elijah Young’s car. He’s a convicted felon and is not allowed to have a firearm.

“He told me he made it,” Qureshi told Channel 9. “He bought it online and he made it. And he fired it and it works.”

Qureshi said the ghost gun was loaded with hollow-point round bullets made to incapacitate someone more than a standard bullet might.

ALE agents found another ghost gun at XO Lounge in University City this past June. In 2019, they confiscated two more in Charlotte’s Steele Creek area -- one from the hands of an 18-year-old and the other from a 22-year-old.

Normally, when police anywhere in the United States find a gun at a crime scene, the ATF National Tracing Center in West Virginia can determine where it was sold, and to whom.

With ghost guns, though, that’s impossible.

Closing the loophole

“The problem is, there’s no serial number,” said North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein. “Nobody knows which vendor sold it, who it was sold to. There wasn’t a background check to make sure it wasn’t sold to a bad guy.”

Stein and other attorneys general across the country are calling on the ATF to close the ghost gun loophole, to require serial numbers, and for people buying the kits to make them undergo background checks, just like people must do for regular gun purchases.

“Federal law requires that anyone who buys a gun go through a background check because we don’t want criminals or terrorists or people with domestic violence issues buying guns,” Stein said.

Another issue is that when fired, ghost guns don’t leave unique prints on bullets. That missing information makes the weapons an unknown threat that agents worry could spread even more on Charlotte’s streets.

President Joe Biden said he wants to address the growing threat of ghost guns and earlier this year, the Department of Justice proposed a rule requiring serial numbers and background checks.

The ATF is reviewing public comments about that and then Congress will review the rule before it would take effect.

(WATCH BELOW: ‘Ghost guns’ being sold online without background checks)