ORLANDO, Fla. — Recent changes to state gun laws raised the minimum age to 21 for gun purchases with a three-day waiting period. But 9 Investigates discovered that there remains a legal loophole to obtain semi-automatic weapons without a background check.
Lake County deputies helped 9 Investigates' Karla Ray assemble a "ghost gun," so named because it lacks a serial number, making it untraceable.
A quick internet search and a credit card is all it took to obtain the necessary parts to assemble an AR-15.
"It's a legal means of obtaining a weapon," Lake County Detective James Getford said.
For several hundred dollars, anyone can buy one without a background check, no matter their age.
"I'm sure there are people attracted to it for that reason," Getford said.
With Getford's help, 9 Investigates learned that assembling the gun is no simple task.
"We have to drill out and mill out the inside of the receiver, where the trigger goes and safety goes in," he said.
And that's how the sale of the kit remains legal. The lower receiver portion that houses the trigger and the safety is sold as a big chunk of metal. It must be drilled out before it's considered part of a weapon.
It's a process that took Getford, an experienced gunsmith with hundreds of gun builds under his belt, almost four hours to complete.
"(People) may just build it because they want it and not want to go through a 4473," Getford said, referring to the Firearms Transaction Record maintained by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
"That's a form you purchase every time you purchase a firearm," Getford said. "There's a background check done on you every time you do it."
The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives doesn't track incidents involving unregistered guns. But California officials said Kevin Janson Neal in November used two high-powered homemade rifles to kill two people before he was killed by a deputy.
Police said in July 2016, Dayten Harper, of Baltimore, used a homemade AR-15 to shoot at four police officers before he was killed.
The gun 9 Investigates assembled was purchased from a dealer in Volusia County. That company and four other "ghost gun" dealers in the county declined to discuss the product, even though the practice is legal.
"There were many times I almost made a mistake and could've ruined it," Getford said.
Despite the potential for "ghost guns" to end up in the wrong hands, Getford said stolen guns are far more likely to be used to commit crimes.
"To my knowledge, we have never taken a gun like this into our evidence used in a crime like that," he said.
Cox Media Group