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'Ghost gun' parts are legal for anyone of any age to buy online

Ghost guns are untraceable firearms made from parts bought online. Investigators said one was used in the fatal shooting of 14-year-old Kyra Scott.

DOUGLASVILLE, Ga. — The Douglas County Sheriff's Office continues to look for a third suspect in the shooting death of 14-year-old Kyra Scott. Investigators arrested her 13-year-old brother and a 19-year-old, charging both with murder.

Sheriff Tim Pounds said the 13-year-old was allegedly selling "ghost guns." The 19-year-old and the another suspect was supposed to come to a home on Vicki Lane to buy one of the ghost guns, but they reportedly stole it instead and tried to run off. The 13-year-old shot at them, accidentally hitting and killing his 14-year-old sister, investigators added.

Ghost guns are untraceable firearms made from parts bought online, and anyone can legally buy the parts to make them. 

“Federal law right now does not control or cover ghost guns, so no matter who you are, if you're a child, if you're a convicted felon, if you're a terrorist, you can go online and purchase these parts and get the parts, construct the firearm even though it would have been illegal for you to possess that firearm if you went to the store and tried to purchase it," 11Alive legal Analyst Page Pate said.

Pate said it's a federal crime to scratch off a serial number from a firearm, but there's a loophole with ghost guns since they're made without a serial number and are sold as parts.

“Under federal law the part for a firearm is not a firearm, and federal law only regulates firearms," Pate said. "Now, there's an exception if it's an automatic weapon, a part of the machine gun is still a machine gun, but for a regular firearm, a semi automatic firearm, a part is not the firearm.”

The Douglas County Sheriff’s Office said the brother had been making and selling the homemade weapons on the street. Now some people are wondering if his parents could face criminal charges.

“There is a Georgia law called reckless conduct. It can apply when a parent is so negligent that he or she is allowing things to happen in the house that could be criminal and that could ultimately hurt someone," Pate said. "That's exactly what happened here."

Pate, who works as an Atlanta criminal defense lawyer, said it doesn't matter if a parent knew their child was making guns in the home.

“You have a certain obligation as a parent to know what's happening in your house, especially with your kids because if the parent basically says, ‘Look, you know, whatever happens in that room, I don't know about it.' That's not good enough under Georgia law," Pate said. 

Meanwhile, Pate has this message for parents.

“I think a lot of parents would be surprised to learn that their kids can go online and buy the parts to a gun they can then make themselves. I mean, I think we would assume number one, that's got to be illegal. Well, it's not, or two, it's got to be very difficult to make a gun. It's not, not anymore," Pate said. 

President Joe Biden proposed measures to curb gun violence in the spring. One of them would direct the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to classify gun kits as firearms. Public comment for the measure ended in August, but the agency still hasn't acted.

The Los Angeles City Council unanimously passed an ordinance on Tuesday, banning anyone from possessing, buying, or transporting ghost guns in the city.

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