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How ghost guns and fentanyl are killing America

This past June, Philadelphia became the latest major American city to sue the manufacturers of “ghost guns” – the DIY firearms easily assembled from kits and components often acquired on the Internet.

The move is in response to a surge of ghost gun-related shootings, bust and deaths citywide: Last year, 575 ghost guns were seized by Philadelphia police, up from just 95 in 2019.

So far this year, some 300 ghost guns have been taken off the streets – almost all made with pieces obtained from a pair of companies, Polymer80 and JSD Supply, both of which Philadelphia is taking to court.

Ghost guns have exploded across the US, with over 25,000 of the weapons recovered by the Department of Justice in 2022, a more than 10-fold increase over 2016.

Cities ranging from New York to Los Angeles to Washington, DC have also taken the extraordinary steps of suing parts manufacturers to stem the ghost gun tide.

Even the Biden Administration has responded to the scourge, requesting in late July that the Supreme Court reinstate restrictions on the sale of ghost gun kits nationwide.

What makes ghost guns so deadly is also what makes them so appealing: Essentially home-made, ghost-guns are able to evade gun control restrictions, and “without serial numbers, cannot be easily tracked from purchase to seizure or assist with the search for weapons when stolen,” explains Prof. Michelle Rippy, Director of the Forensic Science Research Center at the Dept. of Criminal Justice at Cal State East Bay in Hayward, Ca.

Until recently, ghost-guns typically required a 3D-printer to translate their blue-prints into actual weapons.

Today, however, pre-printed components can be sourced via the Internet, aided by easy-to-follow tutorials on sites such as Reddit — all for just a couple of hundred dollars.

The results are hardly surprising: A 75% increase in ghost gun seizures in New York City since 2021, and a 136% increase in Los Angeles.

More than 100 ghost guns were also captured across the border in Canada last year, along with first-of-their kind organized manufacturing rings.

Virtually all ghost gun crime has one thing in common, gangs – and many of those gangs are in some way connected to the fentanyl trade.

Indeed, as easy to assemble as fentanyl is to make, ghost guns are quickly becoming the weapon of choice amongst organized criminal crews dominating the fentanyl trade.

Virtually all ghost gun crime has one thing in common, gangs – and many of those gangs are in some way connected to the fentanyl trade.

“Ghost guns are ideal for those conducting criminal enterprises,” explains Prof. Rippy. “Just as fentanyl is cheap and easy to manufacture, so too is the ease of assembling ghost guns.”

In New York, for instance, State Attorney General Letitia James announced the bust in June of a major traffic ring in the Finger Lakes region featuring nearly 50 defendants, 10 kilos each of fentanyl and cocaine, along numerous ghost guns.

A similar scenario played out in New Jersey in January, where nine men were charged with running a fentanyl and coke racket aided by ghost guns.

Fentanyl trafficking and ghost-guns have also converged in cases everywhere from Rhode Island to Washington, DC to both Northern and Southern California.

An 18 month-long ATF ghost gun investigation in San Diego last year netted over 100 ghost guns along with more than 15 pounds of meth and fentanyl, while a May raid in Los Angeles saw police capture 23,000 fentanyl pills and nearly two dozen weapons, many ghost guns.

Oh, and let’s not forget Christopher Fox, brother of semi-celeb — and onetime Kanye West paramour — Julia Fox, who was arrested on the Upper East Side in March by the NYPD’s Ghost Gun team who also found fentanyl in the apartment.

Easy and cheap to make, illicit fentanyl began replacing heroin as the main street opiate one-half decade ago.

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