Black Market for Homemade AR-15 Rifles Surging in California


The black market for homemade AR-15 rifles is surging in California. ARs are legal to build at home, but “it is a felony to sell or trade such a weapon.” The market for the illegal sales and trades of these guns has become front and center in California.

According to The Sacramento Bee, Graham Barlowe, special agent in charge of the Sacramento office of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), suggests the black market for selling such guns is stronger in Northern California than in other parts of the country. Barlowe said, “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.”

The homemade weapons are called “ghost guns,” and Barlowe said they increased in prominence following the December 14, 2012, attack on Sandy Hook Elementary School. Once politicians in Washington, D.C., seized on Sandy Hook to push gun control, a run on AR-15s began, and that run fed an increased demand for homemade ARs.

Barlowe said, “It became chic to have one. It became what a hot rod is to a car enthusiast. Suppliers of gun parts began to cater to this clientele.”

But building an AR-15 is not like building a bookshelf; it is not an easy task. For example, in April, Breitbart News reported on a murder allegedly committed with a homemade gun in Walnut Creek. Following the incident, Walnut Creek police Lt. Lanny Edwards commented on the gunman’s ability to construct the weapon, saying, “This should not be seen as something that can easily be done. He knew what he was doing.”

As it turns out, the alleged Walnut Creek gunman had a robotics background.

Special Agent Barlowe said the extent to which homemade AR-15s are being used in crime is largely unknown; the thriving black market does not necessarily infer a thriving criminal use of the weapons. He stated that the ATF is in communication with local police departments to try to find a way to calculate the crimes in which such guns are involved.

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