News 3 Investigates 'ghost guns' recovered in Hampton Roads

Biden Guns
Posted at 8:59 PM, Apr 13, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-14 07:29:03-04

NORFOLK, Va. - For months, gun violence has been the big issue in Hampton Roads, impacting many families.

One mother, Shana Turner, knows this pain after losing her son, Shaq, to gun violence in Norfolk in 2017.

“It can happen to anybody,” Turner told News 3. “I say this because my baby was leaving work. You can be leaving work and not be able to come back home.”

Since Shaq’s death, Turner has stepped up by speaking up about gun violence and helping other families.

One issue she has addressed has been "ghost guns" linked to crime. Ghost guns are firearms without serial numbers that can’t be traced and can be made from kits bought online or through 3D printers.

“I just feel like it’s like the devil’s workshop,” Turner said. “To say that you can’t trace it back, that gives evil people the opportunities to do more evil.”

This week, President Biden announced new rules on ghost guns.

"These guns are weapons of choice for many criminals,” Biden said.

The rule includes classifying kits to build ghost guns as "firearms.” Commercial manufacturers of kits must be licensed and include serial numbers, and commercial sellers of kits must be federally licensed and run background checks before selling them.

“It just becomes traceable if it’s ever used in a crime,” Norfolk Commonwealth’s Attorney Ramin Fatehi told News 3.

Fatehi said ghost guns can impact a firearm’s “time to crime,” or how much time that’s passed between when the gun was sold new until when it was recovered at a crime scene.

“It is impossible to get a ‘time to crime’ without a serial number, because you don’t know where the gun came from,” Fatehi said. “It’s like burning off your own fingerprints. It becomes impossible to trace.”

News 3 reached out to police departments across Hampton Roads. Of the seven major police departments, two departments - the Hampton Police Division and Suffolk Police Department - responded with numbers pertaining to ghost guns officers have recovered since 2019.

For Suffolk Police, the department collected two ghost guns in 2020 and one ghost gun in 2022.

Hampton Police said they've recovered two ghost guns in the past two months.

Fatehi told News 3 Norfolk doesn't see the same numbers of ghost guns involved in crimes as other cities, but he is concerned about the future.

“For the moment, the reason that we don’t see the same numbers is because of the incredible availability of non-ghost guns - either guns that wrongdoers get people to buy for them or guns that they steal,” Fatehi said.

Meanwhile, Turner is satisfied with Biden’s move as long as it will be effective.

She also hopes other lawmakers continue addressing the issue to help families like hers.

“It can happen to you,” Turner said. “It can fall at your doorstep. Pay attention to what’s going on.”

President Biden also mentioned, in 2021, law enforcement reported 20,000 suspected ghost guns to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), a ten-fold rise in ghost guns since 2016.

Click here for more News 3 Investigations.