BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Every year, Baltimore earns the dubious distinction as one of the most violent cities in America. Each year, more than 300 people lose their lives in crimes in our city — and increasingly those crimes involve handguns.
It is a new phenomenon that right now the police department is powerless to stop — the proliferation of unregistered guns flooding the city and ending up in the hands of those who will use them. They are called ghost guns and they are easily ordered on the internet, easily assembled at home and impossible to trace on the streets.READ MORE: Jury Acquits Man Of Murder Of Baltimore Anti-Violence Advocate Dante Barksdale
It is a scene we see way too often — almost once a day or multiple times a day shots ring out, lives are lost, families destroyed and neighborhoods remain in fear.
“It’s a culture where young people are witnessing their friends and family members shot and killed and think that that is the way to protect themselves,” said Baltimore Police Commissioner Michael Harrison.
Harrison is charged with the responsibility of keeping the city safe, but right now he is facing an insurmountable problem of guns in the hands of people who will use them
Inside the Baltimore Police Department, there’s a gun reference collection room, where police place confiscated guns from around the city — about six guns a day. Increasingly, the weapons seized are ghost guns. These weapons are ordered through the mail, assembled at home and eventually end up on the streets — many used in violent crimes.
“Now on top of the availability of guns, we have guns that cannot be traced. Ghost guns or the Polymer80. It’s the self-made, homemade handguns,” Harrison said. “It’s a gun you can buy in parts. It’s my understanding that is not considered a firearm until it is assembled and it comes with instructions on how to assemble it and it has no serial number, so it can’t be traced to someone who purchased it. It can’t be traced to the previous person who was in possession of it.”
That’s what makes the weapons attractive to criminals and a nightmare for the police.
“This is the one from our reference collection: the real Springfield model XD .45,” said a city police gun technician. “And this is the ghost gun, Polymer80.”READ MORE: Baltimore County Firefighters Rescue Person Trapped In Mud Near NCR Trail
“Polymer80 are a little bit easier to look at and tell they are ghost guns — just the frame and you can see that they lack serial number on the underside,” the technician added.
“In 2020, that 126 was a big jump from 19 – that’s a 400% increase,” Harrison said. “So it’s a new phenomenon that started in 19 – so it really jumped to 126. And now that we have 54 in the fourth month of this year, that’s very alarming to us.”
Equally alarming is the age of some of the people who somehow manage to get ghost guns.
“Twenty-three percent of the ghost guns were found on people under the age of 21, with the youngest being 14. The youngest being 14,” said Harrison. “So yes, people are committing violent crimes at younger and younger ages.”
Vic Carter: Who puts a gun in the hands of a 12, 13 or 14-year-old?
Harrison: Sometimes it’s other teenagers and sometimes it is individuals who are in this violent life culture or are in the drug trade and have to protect that drug trade.
Harrison said the proliferation of guns and demand for them is not one that is easily solved. And it involves more than stopping the guns, It’s more about stopping the perceived need.
“Many times we use the word crime and murder interchangeably. While we are down in crime, all crime and in violent crime, what persists is mainly violent crime — shootings and murder,” Harrison explained. “And it is a culture of violence that we are working to change through number one, stopping the flow of guns into this community that is overwhelmed with guns on the streets and the willingness of people to use them to solve their conflicts.”
Commissioner Harrison said he is working with local and federal agencies to better determine where the guns are coming from and possible legislation to stop ghost guns from being delivered to homes in Baltimore.MORE NEWS: 17-Year-Old & 19-Year-Old Wounded In North Baltimore Shooting
That is in line with the April 7th executive order from President Joe Biden ordering the justice department to issue a proposed rule to help stop the proliferation of ghost guns in America.