Ghost guns: Legal to make, but not to sell as suspected in Douglas County case

Kyra Scott, 14, died after being shot by her 13-year-old brother inside her Douglas County home, according to police.

Credit: Family photo

Credit: Family photo

Kyra Scott, 14, died after being shot by her 13-year-old brother inside her Douglas County home, according to police.

It’s not as hard as one might think.

A quick internet search, credit card payment, and everything needed to make a firearm can be delivered to the front door. And it’s perfectly legal to make your own gun and has been for decades, according to federal law. No background checks or proof of age are required, so the “ghost guns” are appealing to those too young to buy a gun in a store or who are banned from having weapons, such as convicted felons. The weapons don’t have to be registered, and no license is needed.

But when the so-called “ghost guns” end up in the wrong hands, they are deadly like any store-bought firearm. In one metro Atlanta community, investigators believe a 13-year-old boy was making guns to sell on the streets. When a potential buyer tried to rob him, the boy pulled out another gun and fired a shot, accidentally striking and killing his own 14-year-old sister, according to Douglas County Sheriff Tim Pounds.

“A 13-year-old kid, doesn’t weigh but about 80 pounds, was able to make a weapon from start to finish,” Pounds said. “At 13 years old.”

Both the 13-year-old and the 19-year-old accused of trying to steal the gun, Yusef McArthur El, were arrested and charged with murder in the death of Kyra Scott. Additional charges are possible as the investigation continues, police said.

Ghost guns aren’t new but pose a difficult challenge for law enforcement: They don’t have serial numbers, and there’s no way to track them. Pounds said in his career, he’s never come across a child making them for profit. But the story of Kyra’s death has now made national headlines, and police agencies across the country are reporting similar cases.

A recent school shooting in Arizona is believed to have involved the sale of a ghost gun.

In Phoenix, police believe a 16-year-old brought a homemade gun to school to sell to a younger student on Nov. 29, Sgt. Ann Justus told local media. The exchange happened in a high school bathroom. But when the seller realized he had been given fake money, he confronted the buyer, according to police. That’s when the 16-year-old was shot. Both teens are now facing charges.

“They’re showing up all over the place,” Adam Skaggs, chief counsel and policy director for the Giffords Law Center, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “And there’s a reason they’re attractive for kids, which is that the whole business model is set up to be able to sell them who cannot legally purchase guns.”

Giffords is an organization dedicated to preventing gun violence and is led by former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, a victim of a 2011 assassination attempt. Giffords was shot in the head by Jared Lee Loughner, who also wounded several others and killed six people, including District Court Judge John M. Roll, a 9-year-old girl and an aide to Giffords. The agency stands against the companies profiting from ghost guns, Skaggs said. In 2012, Loughner was sentenced to life in prison without parole after pleading guilty.

Press Release on incident that occurred on November 27, 2021. CORRECTION TO POST: The juvenile's address was listed as...

Posted by Douglas County Sheriff's Office (Georgia) on Thursday, December 2, 2021

The products to make firearms are available without background checks, Skaggs said. That makes them attractive to those who can’t legally buy them, such as convicted felons, he said.

In the spring, President Joe Biden proposed plans to fight gun violence, including tougher restrictions on ghost guns. No changes to federal gun laws have been made so far, but ghost guns are illegal in a few states. Late last month, Los Angeles joined a number of other California cities in cracking down on homemade guns.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the ordinance bans the possession, sale, purchase, receipt or transportation of firearms without serial numbers, as well as the parts used to make them. Mayor Eric Garcetti is expected to sign the ordinance, meaning violators could be fined up to $1,000 and receive up to six months in jail.

A spokesman for the ATF told the AJC the agency doesn’t use the term “ghost guns” but instead calls them privately manufactured weapons. The agency says those wanting to make their own weapons for themselves can do so legally, and technology such as 3-D printing makes it even easier now. But if a gun is made with the intention of selling it, that’s illegal.

In Douglas County, deputies have not yet filed any weapons charges in Kyra’s death, with a lead detective saying the investigation is just beginning. No details have been released on whether others in the home were aware of the 13-year-old’s gun-making.

District Attorney Dalia Racine said last Wednesday that once the sheriff’s office completes its investigation, her office will review the findings.

“Kyra Scott’s death is a tragedy of epic proportion. It’s an unspeakable loss for her family,” Racine said. “This loss is absolutely senseless, and many are grappling to understand how this could happen. We in Douglas County are a community that is in need of healing. Our village has failed to protect our youth.”

A viewing for Kyra will be held Friday from 4 p.m. until 7 p.m. at Grisson-Clark Funeral Home in Atlanta. Her funeral will be Saturday at 11 a.m. at Rehab Cathedral of Atlanta Church in Decatur.